What questions should the project be asking? What sources should we be bringing into it? How would you want to get involved? What research would you do into railway staff accidents and ill-health if you were starting out?
We’ve started with some big questions, because they’re important. We’ve always tried to be collaborative in our approach, but co-production was and remains challenging. This is the idea that we’re open to different expertises and have space for all those interested in British and Irish railway staff accidents to make a contribution by setting an agenda. So, it wouldn’t just be the leaders at the various institutions directing things, but it would be possible for everyone to come with their own research questions and agendas.
We’ve tried to do this with the volunteer teams at the three institutions contributing to the project, the National Railway Museum, the Modern Records Centre at the University of Warwick and The National Archives. Where the volunteers are working on site (back when that was possible, at least) we met as a group at the start of their work to discuss the general topic and to stress the openness to volunteer-generated questions and ideas. And that’s paid off – it’s lovely to hear the volunteers talking about ‘our project’, producing blogs, writing pieces of research (including recently as part of diploma in genealogical study) and setting their own questions.
But we want to extend this as widely as possible – including integrating co-creation in a grant application we’re going to be making in the next month or so, to try to fund this work. So we’d love to hear from you, about what you think the project should be doing and how we should do it. If you were looking at railway worker accidents, what sorts of things would interest you? What questions might you have? Whose voices and stories do we hear, and who has been left out so far? Would you want to research individual cases in more detail? Or to contribute details of cases from your family or work past? Or to integrate the railway accidents into local history studies? Should we be developing educational resources for use in schools?
There’s also a question about who is involved. We’re really grateful for all of the interest and involvement that we’ve had from all sorts of audiences already – and we’re going to be making sure we continue working with and for you. But we’d also like to see if we can reach groups and audiences who wouldn’t normally engage with railway history, or accident history. How we do that is an open question, and we’d love to hear your thoughts.
Might we hold a series of in-person meetings with community groups? If so, how would it be best to run them so that everyone benefits? Perhaps there’s more we could do in online communities, too?
And if people are interested in getting involved, we’d like to see them take the project area and use it in ways that interest them. How can we help make that possible? What support or resources can we provide?
If we can get this right, it’ll make some really powerful collaborations, where the expertise and power is genuinely shared – and we’ll all benefit from the results that flow from this.
We’ll be submitting the bid in a few weeks’ time. One of the core parts of the scheme to which we’ll be applying is that it is all about collaboration – and co-creation is about as collaborative as it comes. If we can put your suggestions into practice (if we get the funding!) then that would be excellent.
So, to make it happen, it would be really helpful if anyone who reads this post and had suggestions could let us know. We be glad to hear from you at any time, but particularly before September 2020. The more we’ve got to work with, the better – and our thanks in advance! We’d be very grateful – and it may just help tip the balance in our favour on the funding bid, as well as provide more for the project as we expand in the future!