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Peer research with offenders in the community

An excellent new toolkit from Revolving Doors Agency presents everything you need to know and do to undertake peer research with offenders in the community.

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Revolving Doors Agency

I have to confess to being a big fan of the work of the Revolving Doors Agency. This is based solely on my experience of reading and reviewing their publications which are consistently:

  • Clear and easy to understand
  • Based on an evidence base which is transparent and fully referenced
  • Heavily rooted in the views of service users
  • Always seeking to address real-world issues

So it’s a bit of a bonus that RDA seems to be getting ever more productive. Last week (30 June 2016), they published three new reports which are essentially practical handbooks/toolkits on service user involvement for staff working in the Criminal Justice System.

This post looks at a toolkit designed for probation staff (or others involved with probation) who want to run a research project with a group of service users, entitled:

Running a peer research project with offenders in the community: A handbook for staff

RDA peer research community cover

A toolkit

This publication is very much a toolkit and focuses very much on the practicalities of setting up and implementing a peer research project in probation. If you’re interested in the evidence base and the ethical issues associated with peer research, I suggest you have a read of another recent publication by Revolving Doors which reviews the literature in this area and highlights key issues.

The toolkit is comprehensive and includes ten major sections:

  • What is peer research?
  • Planning a peer research project
  • The nature of research
  • Literature reviews
  • Ethics
  • Quality assurance
  • Research methods
  • Sampling and access
  • Data analysis
  • Dissemination

The toolkit is also backed up by a very useful resource section which includes everything you might need for running a peer research project from recruiting your researchers to training exercises.

There are 14 different resources which you can see listed in the graphic below:

RDA section 11 resources


Having run a number of peer research projects myself, I have to say that this toolkit is a great time saver because of its attention to detail on the key issues which can often stop peer research in its tracks.

From indicative budgets to doing a skills inventory of your researchers; from avoiding leading questions to the pros and cons of structured interviews, all the critical issues are covered.

Running a peer research project is hard work but enormously enriching. Done well, it can produce a more sophisticated and authentic picture of a particular issue as well as developing the skills and confidence of peer researchers.

A win-win in anyone’s language.

So why not download a copy of the report and get started.

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