Taking Place Seriously

After decades of living, and later on in life working as a researcher and trainer, in a number of children’s homes throughout the UK it is quite stark how institutionalised some still are. When the opportunity arose to explore the meaning and make up of space and place within a children's home I jumped at the opportunity. This initial pilot project looked at one children’s home within Scotland. We had planned for further explorations but as yet funding has not been located. The reason for only focusing upon one home was because we were focusing on an area that had little previous research and we were intending to use a series of innovative methodologies. This was, therefore, a perfect opportunity to explore a number of things.


The main aim of the research was to involve both staff and young people in exploring the different ways in which the space was important as a place to live as well as a place to work.


Literally in the days leading up to Christmas I spent a number of days, including evenings and weekends, getting to know the community group and taking the time with each participant as they shared their views and experiences of living or working within the children's home. Seven out of the 25 potential participants took part in the research - three young people and four staff members. The methodologies used were the detailing of fieldwork notes by the researcher, the collection of photographs taken alongside a “walk about“ interview, a questionnaire and a group discussion.


There were a number of themes that emerged from the pilot project:

    •    An essence/ethos of place for individuals and the collective group;

    •    A strong attachment to place;

    •    There were different purposes and interpretations of place that each participant conveyed;

    •    The staff related to where positive “work” was done - dividing living and working space;

    •    The young people relayed key items or places within the home that made it feel like home and others that made it feel


    •    Important memories were created in the place and were relayed by individuals and in the group;

    •    There was a collective ownership of place;

    •    Common meanings and understanding; and

    •    The group discussion precipitated a better understanding between young people and staff as to the different needs and views of

           what makes it a good place.


The report for this piece of research is still in development so keep an eye on this page. I was, however, involved in another similar project which you can read more about here.


The video below is an overview of the project carried out for IRISS





For this pilot piece of research we were only able to focus our research on one children's home. Whilst there were positive elements to this in garnering our methodology, we were keen to work and explore other children's homes. The established relationship with the children's home that took part made the exploration of ideas and the "intrusion" into the young people's home and staff's working space easier. Did this relationship effect the findings of the research? No, but the time spent in the home before and after the research developing the relationships did make participants more connected to and invested in the research. We explored a number of new methodologies within this research which worked really well with this group. It would be good to have the opportunity to explore these ideas on a larger scale.

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© Zachari Duncalf 2017. All Rights Reserved.

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