How to … amplify diverse voices in research and evaluation

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How to … amplify diverse voices in research and evaluation

Image of three sculptures displayed on top of a green box. The background of colourful fabrics.
© We Gather Exhibition at the Crafts Council Gallery, 2021. Vessels sculpture by Francisca Onumah. Photo by Ben Deakin.

By Dr. Karen Patel, Birmingham City University


Are you working with people and communities from diverse cultural, linguistic or socio-economic backgrounds? Are you working with people who have experienced racism, sexism, homophobia or any other form of discrimination? Do you want to learn how to amplify their experiences and voices?

If so, this guide provides practical tips on amplifying diverse voices in research and evaluation. It is suitable for cultural sector practitioners, academics and postgraduate students who wish to place equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) at the heart of their work.

Read on to discover more about this How To Guide, or download the Guide as a PDF using the button at the top of the page.


The guide draws on research and practical examples from the Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project Craft Expertise. In collaboration with the Crafts Council, the Craft Expertise project explored the experiences of craft makers from minoritised groups in UK professional craft.

Recommendations for a more inclusive professional craft sector were published in the Crafts Council’s Making Changes in Craft report. Other project outputs include the Maker Stories podcast series and academic publications. The primary aim of the Craft Expertise project was to amplify diverse experiences and voices in the professional craft sector.

The following sections will provide tips and practical examples from the project on how to ensure diverse stories are told and shared in a respectful manner.

Why this guide and why now?

In recent years there has been an increased emphasis in research and evaluation on equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI), partly due to the resurgence of Black Lives Matter in 2020 which raised wider awareness of racism and inequalities.

While there has been an increase in research on the experiences of minoritised groups, and wider efforts in higher education and the cultural sector to diversify workforces, research and evaluation remains dominated by white, Eurocentric voices.

The voices of groups who experience oppression and discrimination remain underrepresented in research, and thus a multitude of experiences and perspectives are missing from our knowledge base.

The academic ‘canon’ across most subjects represents a narrow, privileged perspective, so amplifying voices and experiences outside of this canon is essential for research and evaluation to be relevant and useful.

This guide will provide practical advice on:

• taking steps to gather and amplify diverse perspectives in your work;
• potential challenges you may face and how to overcome them.

Person smiling and holding a microphone. Person wearing glasses looking ahead. Person looking down.

Fun Palaces Feltham, Photo: Helen Murray

What do you need to do before the research or evaluation?

It is important when working with minoritised groups that they feel safe. An empathetic, people-centred approach is essential, as outlined in the Centre for Cultural Value Evaluation Principles. You should bear these principles in mind throughout the design and research process to create a safe environment.

Co-creating your approach can also create a safe environment because the groups you are working with have been actively involved in the research design and will be fully aware of the parameters and what is being asked of them.

See the Centre’s resources How to … co-create an evaluation and How to … co-commission research for further guidance on co-creation.

The people and groups you are working with need to be fully aware of what is being asked of them, what kind of experiences they will be asked to discuss and the activities they will be participating in. They need to be fully informed of where and how their voices and experiences will be used, and what input they have into the final research, evaluation or other output.

What are the potential pitfalls and challenges?

Getting stories told

Creating a safe environment where participants feel comfortable with what they are sharing is essential for getting stories told.

However, a number of challenges may arise in the process.

You may find people get upset or triggered during an interview. If this happens, stop the interview and ask if and when they feel happy to continue.

Make sure you listen actively throughout and respect their feelings and decisions. If participants want to withdraw for any reason, that decision must be respected.

It is important to acknowledge the emotional labour that the people you speak to will undertake as they tell you their stories and not to push them if they don’t want to answer certain questions.

Think about the interview setting...

  • The formal interview setting of sitting around a table with a recording in the middle might make people feel less comfortable.
  • You can change the interview setting to help participants feel more comfortable, for example by carrying out a walking interview, maybe outside in a park or green space.
  • You could also visit participants in their home, studio or place of work, wherever where they feel comfortable.
  • Most of my interviews for my craft research took place in people’s own studios, so that interviewees felt comfortable in their own space, and they could show me their work and talk about it.

Getting stories listened to

Many people who do not belong to underrepresented or minoritised groups still believe that equality and diversity is not their concern, when in fact, it should be a collective and shared undertaking.

As researchers and evaluators, telling people’s stories in a compelling way is essential. To do this, you need to distil your message and grab people’s attention.

When disseminating your findings, the answers to these questions can help you distil your message:

• Why does this research or evaluation matter?
• What gaps in knowledge and understanding is it addressing?
• What are the key experiences or takeaways from the research you have carried out?
• Are there any particularly striking quotes you could use?
• Could you communicate your findings in a different way? For example, through podcasts, performance or other creative outputs?

Close up of two people sat a table. One person holds a pen and is writing on a sheet of paper.

Living Lab - Shibori Workship, Crafts Council. Photo by Farihah Chowdhury.

Step by step: amplifying diverse voices in research

What mechanisms can be employed to ensure marginalised and minoritised stories are collected? How do you ensure such stories are shared respectfully?

1. Find your storytellers

There are many arts and creative organisations and networks for people from marginalised groups.

If you don’t know where to start in terms of finding participants, look for these organisations.Use your networks to find people too. Once you have made contact with a few people, finding participants can ‘snowball’ from there.

In my research, in which I focus on the experiences of makers from minoritized groups in craft, I contacted my local socially engaged craft organisation Craftspace to refer me to potential research participants. Those participants were able to put me in contact with their colleagues or friends.

2. Co-create the approach

Actively involving your participants in the research approach is important for creating an equitable relationship, and addressing the power imbalance that can often occur between researchers and participants.

In my research on inequalities in craft, I would share my approach and initial insights emerging from the research with interview participants, and they would offer their insights and shape the research as it progressed. This is a form of abductive analysis, which as sociologist Patricia Hill Collins has highlighted, is flexible, inclusive and brings rich insights into the experiences of minoritised groups. It allows for theories and insights to emerge from the field and from the research process rather than theories being imposed on to the process.

More equitable methods such as walking interviews and knowledge exchange workshops also assist in co-creating research. I go into more detail about knowledge exchange workshops under point 4.

3. Decide how you will communicate the research

Deciding early on how you will communicate the research is important for planning.

For example, my work on inequalities in the craft sector has been used to inform the Crafts Council’s equality and diversity policies. Over the course of the project, I created accessible working papers to share with the Crafts Council and other craft organisations.

These working papers contained little academic jargon, and mostly comprised anonymised quotes from the interviews, giving voice to people’s experiences of racism and microaggressions in the sector.

The hard-hitting quotes were essential to grab attention and make clear the problem of racism in professional UK craft.

You can communicate your research in many ways, including podcasts, videos, toolkits, leaflets, artwork, exhibitions and performance.

As with co-designing the research approach, you can also co-create the means to communicate your research with participants, asking them how they would like their story to be shared.

4. Carry out the research and analyse your findings

Research and evaluation can feel like an extractive process: one where the researcher parachutes in to obtain the knowledge and experience of others. However, as researchers and evaluators, it is important to consider how we can offer value to the research participants. One answer lies in providing meaningful knowledge exchange.

For example, as part of my research, I held social media workshops in London and Birmingham which were specifically targeted at women from ethnically diverse backgrounds, and it was through these I made some important contacts. I have previous experience working in social media, so I offered free advice to attendees in exchange for their part in a discussion on the challenges and barriers women of colour experience on social media. This form of knowledge exchange is crucial for getting buy-in and creates a more equitable relationship.

I also carried out interviews. During the interviews, I listened and was respectful, and made sure that participants felt safe and that their stories would be respected. Interviews were recorded and transcribed and analysed thematically using Nvivo, looking for common themes.

5. Share and amplify

I have communicated my craft research through a podcast series, working papers and toolkits. When the outputs have been audio or video, I worked with participants and consulted them throughout to ensure they were happy with the final product.

To amplify these stories, I use social media platforms, mostly Instagram and Twitter, and use my relationship with organisations such as Crafts Council and Craftspace to share widely across their networks. Tag your participants (if they consent to it) so they can share with their networks.

It is crucial that where possible your storytellers are placed front and centre in any communications or social media because it is their story and their emotional labour which has contributed to your research. Ensure any articles or communications about your research are respectful of this.


  • The key to amplifying diverse voices is to co-create your approach with participants, make the research process transparent and inclusive, be respectful and make sure your participants feel safe and listened to.
  • Amplifying diverse voices is crucial for research and evaluation, because so far the most prominent voices in the field are from a narrow, relatively privileged viewpoint, and do not reflect the spectrum of human experience.
  • It is crucial that the sector amplifies a multitude of perspectives, so that more people see themselves in arts and culture and feel like they can participate.


This refers to any practice which involves the making of objects and artefacts by hand using materials. This can include jewellery making, textiles, ceramics, woodwork, metalsmithing or mixed material making.

This stands for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. All three of these terms are contested and their use has been questioned in academic research. However the broad term of EDI captures activity related to the experiences of people from minoritised groups and addressing the challenges and barriers they experience. To define each term I use these definitions from Birmingham City University’s EDI Unit:

Equality: is about advancing equality of outcome and eliminating discriminatory practices, allowing everyone to achieve their full potential. Equality is not about treating everyone the same; we need to recognise that at times people’s needs are met in different ways. Equality is supported by legislation in the form of the Equality Act 2010, and is defined by the Equality and Human Rights Commission as ‘the state of being equal, especially in status, rights and opportunities’.

Diversity: is about recognising and valuing difference in its broadest sense. When we respect, value and embrace difference it benefits us all. Diversity is a huge asset to our organisation, and leads to diversity of thought and greater innovation. When we build alliances across all communities, we can eradicate all forms of discrimination.

Inclusion: relates to our individual experiences and the extent to which we are included in different groups and structures. An inclusive environment is essential to creating a sense of belonging, which leads to greater physical and mental health and wellbeing.

This is my preferred term to describe groups of people or communities who have been discriminated against and/or treated as a minority in society, either historically or in the current moment.

Further reading and resources

Crafts Council: Making Changes in Craft (Report)
Craft Expertise (Website)
Jerwood Arts Socio-economic diversity and inclusion in the arts: a toolkit for employers (Toolkit)
Maker Stories (Podcast)

Reflective questions

How are you going to ensure that you create a safe environment for your participants?

What are your own biases?

Who can you collaborate with to help you amplify minoritised voices in your work?



Keen to develop creative, value-driven approaches to evaluation? Sign up to our free-to-access course, led by academics and sector experts.

Published: 2023
Resource type: Guide/tools