The pivotal role of Circulate in analysing evidence from Circuit

“The sense we make of evidence, how we understand it, categorise it and use it, is determined by our own perspectives, priorities and principles.”

Circulate is a research and evaluation group made up of young people, from across the country, who are taking part in Circuit. This national group meets two or three times a year, for Circulate sessions, which are planned (on the basis of the group’s own priorities) and facilitated by the Circuit critical friend.

At the recent Circulate session, entitled ‘Now that we’ve found evidence what are we going to do with it?’ Circulate members from across the country brought and shared evidence that they had gathered at, or about, the Tate Liverpool Blueprint festival and together we explored different ways of ‘making sense’ of this data. (Blueprint was a three day festival of art, music and dance curated by Tate Collective Liverpool, Tate Liverpool’s young people’s group.)

Collecting evidence is just one part of an action research cycle, or of an evaluation process. Once we have evidence, we need to think about how we might understand that evidence and what we might do with it, as shown in the diagram featured with this post.

At the Circulate session we began to consider how to ‘understand’ or ‘make sense’ of the evidence gathered at Blueprint, in order to make it useful to an action research process and to be able to share it. Not only did we make sense of the evidence in order to use it to illustrate of the ways in which the festival successfully realised the aims that Tate Collective Liverpool had for the event, but also to identify ways to use the evidence to inform future Circuit work. We therefore used a range of tools to think about and identify the learning points indicated by the evidence.

About a year ago I attended a seminar entitled ‘Giving children and young people a voice in research: issues and strategies’, which was an ESRC Festival of Social Science event and was presented by the Centre for Longitudinal Studies and the National Children’s Bureau (NCB), drawing on findings from a range of joint CLS-NCB research projects.

One of the presentations, from the Viper young researchers, was very useful, engaging and inspiring. One of the activities the Vipers facilitated was with a pack of playing cards. We were all given a number of playing cards and asked in groups to put all combined cards into sets. This exercise was really effective at highlighting how many different sets there can be, such as: red cards, black cards, picture cards, the same suits, the same numbers, odd number cards, even number cards, the list is quite endless. Members of Viper underlined how this is indicative of how many different ‘sets’ there can be when making sense of evidence or data and therefore how many different interpretations there can be.

The sense we make of evidence, how we understand it, categorise it and use it, is determined by our own perspectives, priorities and principles. It is therefore really important that members of Circulate don’t just gather evidence of Circuit, but also make sense of it themselves, in ways that are determined by their own perspectives as people involved in Circuit.