What is engaged research and why is it a useful research methodology?

We sat down with Nilay Kavur, to discuss her new role as an Engaged Research Officer for UNIC4ER, the research division of UNIC. Kavur is one of eight Engaged Research Officers appointed. Prior to joining UNIC as an Engaged Research Officer, Kavur served as a post-doctorate researcher in the Criminology Department at Utrecht University, the Netherlands and Migration Research Center (MiReKoc) at Koç University, Turkey for various migration-related research projects.

What does Engaged Research mean to you?  

I am excited to contribute to the expansion of Engaged Research in all fields. For me, the most valuable component of Engaged Research is that researchers work with community partners to identify and address the societal challenges together. In that regard, public concerns are identified together with the community partners but not imposed on them from top down. Moreover, municipalities, civil society partners, private business partners and academia will be motivated to work in coordination.

Are there specific methods you are more familiar with? Tell us more about your research and why engaged research is a useful/ important research methodology?

Just before becoming part of the UNIC4ER team, I myself was working on a research proposal on non-governmental organizations’ positioning in the field of migration, in which I prioritized the engagement and collaboration of potential research participants. Koç University has encouraged me to undertake the research by granting me a seed fund. With the active engagement and collaboration of NGOs in the field of migration in Turkey, I aim to investigate the positioning of the NGOs in the midst of the State, the UN, the EU and the Donors. Due to the increasing institutionalization, commercialization and managerialism on the one hand and the tightened inspection of the central state, NGOs walk on thin ice. This connotes to the scaling dependency of NGOs existence both on the state and the funders resulting in damaged impartiality. Consequently, rights of ‘refugees’ are in jeopardy as NGOs operate ‘off the record’. Both the ‘refugees’ and the NGO workers are in the midst of the sovereign states, the UN and private funders, with differentiated agendas and interests, affecting the applicability of human rights. NGOs’ primary objectives, various aspects that divert NGOs from their main purpose and their counter-hegemonic strategies will be analyzed. Overall, with this research, together with the civil society partners, I aim to identify and address the common challenges that the partners structurally experience in the Turkish context. Hopefully, this will be a pilot study and will be carried out internationally in the near future. 


In your view, how can UNIC4ER contribute to carrying out effective Engaged Research? 


I believe UNIC4ER will contribute to the enhancement of Engaged Research in many aspects. Thanks to the rigorous research carried out by my colleagues in different partner universities, a very comprehensive literature review will be compiled. Many best-practices across universities have already started to be shared with international audiences. Roadmaps will be developed to create platforms for community representatives and academia to work together. Different faculties across partner universities will conduct research on common societal challenges in a multidisciplinary manner. 


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