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‘The play’s the thing’: A creative collaboration to investigate lived experiences in an urban community garden

Black, Yvonne


Yvonne Black


Presenting the backstage story of a non-traditional qualitative research project, I illustrate how a creative approach can stimulate participant dialogue and encourage researcher reflexivity. Working with an award-winning playwright and the staff and volunteers at a community garden, I explored the meanings of connections between people and nature, and how these connections impact well-being, through a collaborative performance ethnography. The aim of the study is to stimulate discourse around the role of community gardens in enacting social and environmental change for well-being. This article is an exploration of how the creative approach we adopted, incorporating arts-based inquiry and performance as method, contributed to every aspect of the research process. First, it facilitated relaxed communications with the members of the community organisation who participated. Their interest was immediately piqued by the idea of being involved in the development of a play, which led to relaxed, playful discussion. Second, the creative approach provided new perspectives on the collection and analysis of data. It expanded my thinking, in developing my methodological approach to the research and in working towards a radical reflexivity. I suggest that creative approaches are applicable to many areas of organisational research.


Black, Y. (in press). ‘The play’s the thing’: A creative collaboration to investigate lived experiences in an urban community garden. Management Learning,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 13, 2019
Online Publication Date Nov 17, 2019
Deposit Date Nov 18, 2019
Publicly Available Date Nov 18, 2020
Journal Management Learning
Print ISSN 1350-5076
Electronic ISSN 1461-7307
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords Management of Technology and Innovation; Strategy and Management; General Decision Sciences; Arts-based inquiry; community garden; community organisation; non-traditional qualitative research; well-being
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