Members from the University of Malta’s Department of Counselling, together with Ph.D. students within the Faculty for Social Wellbeing, attended the first European Conference on Qualitative Research in Leuven Belgium.
After 12 successful editions of the International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry (ICQI) at Illinois University (US), this first European edition was hosted between 7 and 9 February, 2017 in Leuven, Belgium. This was a unique event for sharing knowledge and seeking new collaboration and partnerships. It provided opportunities for addressing common challenges qualitative researchers are facing in their own countries, institutions or research disciplines. The ICQI ethos and rationale include offering a space where conference participants may feel comfortable experimenting with new ideas and critical thoughts; and an opportunity to push and challenge boundaries of what is currently perceived as best practice in qualitative research.
The Department of Counselling is committed to strengthening the qualitative research agenda in Malta and abroad. It was therefore important that its members attend this conference. Conference contributions addressed quality and reflexivity in qualitative inquiry; criteria and frameworks used to judge one’s and others’ work; emerging areas of qualitative methodological innovation and new ways of conceptualizing qualitative inquiry. An outcome was the value of flexible, emerging and progressive approaches to qualitative research, developed in response to the often challenging topics explored. Therefore, provocative, creative and critical presentations and discussions towards established research tools of qualitative research approaches were experienced.
The Maltese group members were particularly struck by a group presentation - Brexit': Researchers respond - facilitated by Dr Jonathan Wyatt from the University of Edinburgh. This group included Professor Jeannie Wright, a member of the Department of Counselling. This was a reflective, evocative and emotive reaction to what the future holds for British citizens. The questions which were extensively discussed included: “But what does the Brexit referendum decision mean for qualitative research and researchers? How does it affect the way researchers think, write and carry themselves?” How might Brexit inform how researchers theorise and produce knowledge? Participants were encouraged to reflect on “what impact the Brexit referendum process and outcome has on me”.
Conclusions reached amongst those present during this symposium included the importance of activism as a moral responsibility and a social justice issue.