Thank you very much for launching these discussions!
As a person with disabilities, I used autoethnography as my core research methodology to conduct what is now termed as “a groundbreaking PhD research” in South Africa (study period October 2016 – May 2021). My main objective was to better inform myself about policy issues that could be affecting people with marginalized identities like the San People of Southern Africa and their family members with disabilities.
Therefore, the study examined the experiences of a group of the San people continuous forced-relocation in Southern Africa and the impact that had on their basic human rights and intangible cultural heritage. I then used my evidence-based findings to develop inclusive concepts and advocated for the target group in South Africa.
As the research impact, I have spent several months in South Africa on official invitations to give evidence-based policy advice to the local government, academic institutions, traditional leaders and many more established institutions in the country, focusing on sustainable and effective ways to align the San Heritage with the UN-SDGs policies.
Some of my success notes:
- I was able to use my lived experiences to collect evidence-based data and to also simplify developmental theories linked to the UN-SDGs policies. This made it easier for authorities and stakeholders to read more meaning to the data and concepts I presented. In other words, finding out the underlining disability issues are as important as finding strategic ways and means to link authorities to the study findings.
- As a native African researcher with similar cultural background as the target groups and with disabilities, I was able to use the research findings to mediate between authorities and the San people and families with disabilities. This made it possible for me to close the gap that existed between them and paved way for the San to participate directly in future policy decisions that would affect them.
- The evidence-based findings in regards to specific disability issues were the key motivation for authorities to take ownership of my recommendations. So I capitalized on that and established a unique collaborative network and platform that included the diplomatic society, industry, the army, academic institutions, NGOs, traditional leaders, broadcasting houses etc.. That created a unique pool of experts from diverse backgrounds across South Africa, making it easy to create synergies in order to implement the research recommendations in the research community, Platfontein, in the Northern Cape.
The feedback and appreciation letters I am receiving from the NGOs in South Africa, my university (the University of the west of Scotland) and the British Council etc.. clearly stated that I have successfully demonstrated that researchers with disabilities have extra value in conducting phenomenological in-depth studies. They also stated that we have natural charisma to link people to study findings – to change mindsets. However, the challenge still remains – where are the development agencies etc. to absorb us – give us the chance in terms of job offers?
(Dr. Francis Adams, Germany)