A Wayfinder guide for adapting immersive, place-based methods to an uncertain world

For people unfamiliar with in-situ methodologies, we’ll share a story. It demonstrates the methods’ unique contribution to understanding experiences of a changing world.

PolicyWise Knowledge Mobilization & Relationship Specialist, Nicole Glenn, describes her experience of conducting a walking interview – a common in-situ approach – in the inner-city of Montreal. She co-authored the guide with researchers Martine Sharech and Stephanie Alexander. 

A story of a walking interview

When I ask, Clare describes her neighbourhood as a “great place to live.” It’s in pretty stark contrast to what I’ve heard about this place.

During the walk, Clare not only describes her neighbourhood, she shows it to me. I get to see, hear, and smell it along with her. Clare tells me stories that come up during the walk – like about the benches. There is an interview guide, but most of the questions come up in conversation, in response to what we see, hear, and experience.

It’s 2015. Although I’ve lived in Montreal for years, I’ve never been to this neighbourhood. I do know its poor reputation.

Clare is the participant’s name. As we’re walking, she points out a series of park benches near her house – “they’re why I love it here!” I watch as she describes what she likes about this place, “It’s so vibrant and everyone is welcoming!” It’s a collection of several benches in a busy central square. On one bench, I see two older men deep in conversation. On another, a mother hands her toddler a snack. People are greeting each other in French and English: “Bonjour! How’re you?”

What now & what next?

A lot changed in the years since this walking interview took place. A global pandemic has caused nearly everything to shift, in-situ methodologies included. Sharing space and time are essential to the immersive nature of the approach. What now? Are they safe? Will people want to be together still?

COVID-19 has also heightened crises of inequities across the globe. Job loss, illness, and death are concentrated in places where immigrants, racialized peoples, and older folks live.

In-situ methodologies offer a unique way to better understand these communities’ experiences, their priorities for recovery, and their preferred solutions. They are participant led and equity-centred. So, adapting them is a worthwhile endeavour. Find out more in the Wayfinder guide!

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