Why research Camphill?

Do you have opinions on Camphill and the need for research?  Do you have ideas about the type of research that Camphill needs to engage in? Do you have suggestions on how research in and/or on Camphill could be funded? If so, the Camphill Research Network would like to invite you to take part in our discussions.  Your contribution will not only be of general interest but will help us to develop proposals for organising and resourcing research projects across the Camphill communities.  Post a comment to have your say!

10 Enlightened Replies

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  1. Maria says:

    Relevant to the below, see the item in News: “Exploring the “lived experience” of children and young people in Camphill Community Glencraig”.

  2. Terry Kirk says:

    To address item 6 of Andrew Plant’s positive reasons for research above .”the need for research that addresses the needs and viewpoints of residents” (is a gap). My first reaction was that data might skew because of the widespread demographic of aged, long-term residents who might know little else but Camphill. This suggests a possible fruitful subset. The Camphill I am associated with (Ontario, Canada) has a population of day program companions (clients) who come to Camphill some days of the week and to other care-providing agencies on others. I can’t believe we are unique amongst the Camphills worldwide.in this. (Many of them are recently out of school).

    So a research program asking these people what they like about their time with Camphill compared to other places might be revealing. Towards the larger question of the value of Camphill to society COMPARED TO WHAT? Positive answers (if any) would help defend against the critics – maybe they might like the small daily rituals that Marion Snelgrove thinks are the essence of Camphill.

    • Maria says:

      I think you make a very good point, Terry. Research that focuses on the experiences and impressions of day placements (as they are called in the communities I’m familiar with), including possibly their families, would be a very worthwhile project. In terms of revealing both what they like and don’t like about different types of placement. Maybe the most important thing that such a piece of research could reveal is what the differences actually are, from their perspective and in their language.

    • Andrew Plant says:

      You are right, Terry, in pointing out some of the challenges in conducting such research. Most Camphill communities in Scotland provide day placements and indeed there is a growing trend of applications for day places rather than residential places so the number of day attenders is increasing – a significant development.
      The thing is that the day attenders are less likely to experience the full range of the unique Camphill ‘markers’ – because, in general, they do not take part in just those Camphil rituals that you refer to, nor the evening and weekend activities.
      Another thing is that Camphill Scotland is looking at research led by residents and day attenders – which also has challenges. Neil Henery is leading on this and he has been in touch with other organisations and academic departments. But it seems that nobody is doing this or knows how to do this. The response has largely been ‘let us know how you get on and we can learn from you’. It seems that it is going to be a daunting task to coach residents in how to do this, to learn how to use non-verbal techniques such as videoing and also to take on board the ethical dimensions of such research. This wil take a lot of time, skill and resources.
      We will have to see how this develops.

  3. Mark McAlister says:

    Some years ago, Torin Finser wrote a little book about research. I have found it to be very helpful when trying to get busy people interested in the topic. Details: (http://www.waldorfpublications.org/products/copy-of-reflections-and-suggestions-for-teachers-for-creating-a-community-of-research-in-waldorf-schools)

  4. Roy Brown says:

    Why would research be useful to Camphill at a practical level?

    1) It would enable Camphill to consider whether their current approaches were the most effective or could be improved in a systematic manner. One initial approach would be to evaluate how effective the support and intervention are.

    2) It could help decide whether some people would be better served by having different types of programmes – for example, do all people in Camphill need to stay in Camphill?

    3) It could help decide the types of support that parents would benefit from and, if participants could return home, what types of support would be required at home. This aspect is a critical question that needs to be answered both to support participants, children or adults with disabilities, and their primary carers at home.

    For example, today many people believe inclusion of people with disabilities is critical, but if this is applied as a “mission” rather than carefully appraised and researched we find that inclusion policies can in certain instances (what types of instances?) cause harm not just to the person with a disability but to parents and siblings and beyond. Research is currently indicating this is a major issue for policy and practice and makes recommendations about it in order to increase support at home and community. What are these supports? Parents often have some good ideas and experience so they should be part of the research team if it is a family matter. Without research this is a hit and miss job and open to mission or extreme and untested views and actions, which may work sometimes, or not at all.

    There are pressing problems at Camphill. Some may be financial; others may be practice or policy. All can be improved with research. Research can be costly in the short term but improve lifestyle and quality of life in the long-term.

    The question is – is Camphill, as a society, willing to invest in research for Camphill which also has implications for wider society?

    If the answer is “yes” then funding is often available – sometimes through governments, various community and charitable organizations as well as specific trusts. Some research takes a lot of money but much of it is not very expensive.

    There are opportunities for working with colleges and universities through academic personnel and students, which also educate a wider community. One can improve chances of financial support when an organization communicates what it is doing. Research endeavors are likely to bring in resources if properly explained and carried out suitably.

    Are such ideas worth discussing at Camphill and are they also worth trying out?

  5. Robin Jackson says:

    There is a belief that most intentional communities have a limited lifespan. This can possibly be attributed to the growth of irresolvable tensions resulting from the internal dynamics of a particular community and changes in the political, economic and social circumstances in the outside world. The question arises as to whether the Camphill Movement in the UK is approaching its end point.

    The combination of economic austerity and the myopic pursuit by politicians – national and local – of the ideology of inclusion means that Camphill communities have to change in order to survive. In facing the challenge of change three groups tend to emerge. The first is made up of those who resolutely refuse to accept the need for change. The second comprises those who acknowledge the need for change but do not know what to do. The third knows what to do and attempts to do it. It does not need the perceptive and unique insight of a managerial consultant to observe that the co-existence of such groups can lead to organisational conflict and eventual paralysis. There is only a limited period of time within which any organisation can continue to operate where strongly divergent views are held as to how to confront the future and where there is no effective managerial mechanism to resolve deep differences and to take forward new approaches.

    This particular organisational problem is accentuated for intentional communities by the nature of the power structure. The rejection of different forms of hierarchical management and of the notion of individuals assuming leadership roles creates difficulties where a community needs to undergo profound and rapid change in order to survive. What compounds the difficulties for some intentional communities is the nature of their relationship with the outside world; for example, is it marked by active cooperation, grudging tolerance or outright hostility? This stance in relation to external agencies can be further complicated by the co-existence of all three attitudes within a single community!

    What is rarely challenged by external agencies is the high quality of the provision made by most Camphill communities for the children young people and adults in their care. However, those staff members who provide these services are rarely subject to external and close scrutiny. The regulatory and commissioning services will argue that their primary responsibility is the health and welfare of the children, young people and adults in the care of a community. It is not part of their role to explore working relationships in a community, unless the quality of the provision for those in a community’s care is called into question. In other words, contrary to logic, it is possible to have a dysfunctional organisation providing a high level of care – albeit for a short while. But inevitably there will come a point when the system breaks down.

    It could be argued that if external agencies had more closely inspected those care settings which subsequently became highly publicized and conspicuous failures – like Winterbourne View – different outcomes might have resulted. It should not be left to the actions of whistleblowers or tragic incidents to reveal a non-functioning system. The regulatory bodies and commissioning agencies will no doubt argue that they do not have the resources for longer and more detailed inspections. Then if that is the case, one can expect further Winterbourne Views.

    When one looks at the history of Camphill it can be seen that its founder – Dr Karl Koenig – deliberately sought to insulate and isolate the school from what he saw as the malign influences of the outside world. One is left to wonder how far that legacy still prevails in some communities. Having had an association with Camphill for over 35 years, I am very aware of the fact that Camphill has been poor in communicating to those who live beyond its boundaries the nature of its work. What it has conspicuously failed to do is to explain in intelligible English (and I stress ‘English’) the nature of the underlying philosophy – anthroposophy. As a result critics of Camphill have had a field day in representing or rather misrepresenting the Camphill Movement as a cult and by so doing have sought to discredit it.

    Does the Camphill Movement in the UK have a future? That depends on the preparedness of existing members to embrace and not to resist change. It will also depend on the extent to which ‘the outside world’ is made aware of the essential features of Camphill philosophy and of its many achievements. It is worth highlighting here the clear unity of purpose and dynamism of recently established communities in Viet Nam and South Korea which are based on the Camphill model. What is interesting here is that the growth of these communities is taking place in cultures quite alien to those found in the West. If the Camphill seed can flourish in these foreign settings there is no reason why it cannot continue to flourish in the UK, if due account is taken of the changing economic and social climate here. It may well be that what we eventually see emerging is a Camphill-lite form of care provision but in which the essence of Camphill is still retained.

    The launch of the Camphill Research Network is an important first step in promoting an informed, insightful and comprehensive examination of the work of Camphill and other intentional communities. Maria Lyons is to be heartily congratulated on launching this pioneering project. Finally I should stress that in making the various points in the above discussion piece, I do not have any particular Camphill community in mind. Wenn die Kappe passt, es tragen!

  6. Andrew Plant says:

    7 Reasons to Research Camphill

    1. Camphill has been going for 75 years. This is extraordinary – and yet what is also extraordinary is the fact that Camphill has such a low profile – nationally and locally, among care providers, commissioners and regulators – (among whom misconceptions abound) – among other third sector charities and organisations, and within the wider movement of intentional communities.

    2. Changes in social care policy – SDS and personalised budgets mean that adults with learning disabilities will have an increasing level of control and choice as to how they use their personalised funding packages. Consequently Camphill communities are going to have to advertise and promote what they offer in terms of both residential and day services. Camphill communities will also have to show that they are responsive to the changes in what both individuals and funding/placing authorities want to spend their money on.

    3. The need to argue the case for community as a valid and valuable setting for care and support. Social care policy has turned away from ‘congregate care’ in which adults with disabilities spend most of their time together and towards ‘care in the community’, individualisation and ‘normalisation’.

    4. In order to make clear and re-define – to both internal and external audiences -exactly what it is that Camphill communities are and what they do. There has been a great deal of change not only in the external social care environment but also internally within communities and their members – co-workers, employees and residents. Have we taken these changes and their implications on board? What do stakeholders imagine Camphill is? Do we have a common image of what we do?

    5. People who should know about research tell us that we should be doing research. Kate Skinner, the outgoing Chair of Camphill Scotland; the Camphill Families and Friends (CFF); Maria Lyons who has set up the Camphill Research Network (in her article on the Camphill research Network website ‘Camphill communities as settings for people with intellectual disabilities: a review of the literature and arguments for further research. 2013); Miriam Snellgrove in a piece of work commissioned by Camphill Scotland in 2013 ‘Researching Camphill: Past, Present and Future’.

    6. Specifically to fill the gap in existing research on Camphill that has been identified by both Miriam Snellgrove and Maria Lyons, namely the need for research that addresses the needs and viewpoints of residents.

    7. Because research is one of the natural outcomes of the aspiration by Camphill to be a self-reflective organisation, an organisation that is willing to be self-critical and responsive to changing needs.

    7 Reasons Not to Research Camphill

    1. It is a waste of time. Research does not make any difference – nobody reads it and it does not serve to influence policy decisions by external bodies.

    2. It is expensive. A good piece of research will cost thousands of pounds.

    3. In order to be recognised as valid it needs to be funded by sources not connected to Camphill. It is extremely challenging to attract that sort of funding and that level of funding.

    4. In order to be recognised as valid it would need to be conducted by a qualified and professional researcher and would need to be peer-reviewed and published in a professionally recognised and respected journal.

    5. It is time-consuming. It needs Camphill people who are experienced in research to co-ordinate the work of the external researchers. It needs communities – and individuals within those communities – to commit to the energy, time and resources involved.

    6. It is too difficult. Research involving the input of residents is fraught with ethical concerns and issues that need external scrutiny and monitoring.

    7. Why? There is no point in beginning because we do not know what purpose the research is meant to serve.

    Which brings us back to the 7 reasons to research Camphill…………..

    Meanwhile there have been some excellent pieces of research carried out over the years.
    The hope is that the newly formed Camphill Research Network can bring a new impetus and sense of order and purpose to all of this through collecting up all the research carried out so far, bringing together all those people who are experienced and interested in research and formulating a comprehensive research strategy for Camphill.

    Andrew Plant. September 2014

    • Maria says:

      Andrew Plant is spot on, I think, in his summary of reasons why people might doubt the value of research. A key task, therefore, is to deal directly with these objections, and attempt to dispel some of the misconceptions surrounding the whole topic of research. Let me take them one by one.

      Research is a waste of time because nobody reads the results: This is often true, I think, if we take a view of research as product rather than process. If carried out in the right way, research can be a marvellous opportunity for self-reflection, individual and group learning, and awareness-raising. This type of project is of course, as Andrew points out, time-consuming and requires team or whole community involvement and commitment. But that is not an objection to research per se; it is rather a matter of priorities. Moreover, clear planning for how results will be presented, disseminated and made accessible to intended audiences can ensure that the time and effort (and money!) which has gone into producing reports is not ‘wasted’ as it unfortunately so often has been in the past.

      It is expensive: Yes, a big project, hiring outside experts, will cost. However, first of all, research can be done on a budget, particularly internal, small-scale projects. Action research, for instance – if individual practitioners are learning, than the organisation is learning – that, at least ought to be seen as a legitimate community expense. Often there is an impression that research will be too big a burden on already heavy workloads, when in fact a great deal of ‘data gathering’ is already being done on a daily basis, in everyday tasks (think, for instance, of all the testimonials and other ‘data’ gathered in preparation for inspections). To become ‘research’ these activities require a framework and methodology, but not necessarily an enormous amount of extra work.

      Secondly, there are large pots of funding available for charitable enterprises, from both government and other sources. The Scottish Government recently awarded a significant grant for a study of a programme in two Camphill communities involving Edinburgh University (a success in which Kate Skinner was instrumental). We cannot simply assume that Camphill will not be able to attract further funding for research and development before it has made a concerted, strategic and well-resourced effort to do so.

      To be valid it must be funded and carried out independently: This returns us again to the question of our perspective on what the research is for; i.e. are we talking about research as proof or research as improvement? Yes, it is a good thing to have research funded externally and conducted by experts not connected to Camphill. Here the ‘validity’ is in the distance; results can be presented as evidence that Camphill is/does this or that, in a language that is acceptable to and understood by the world.

      However, it is equally (perhaps even more) valuable for Camphill communities to begin doing their own research, in a more systematic way, for the reasons already mentioned above. Camphill is facing many challenges, and proving itself to the world is only one of them. In fact, these are two sides of the same coin. Without identifying and resolving their internal challenges, and demonstrating a willingness to do this, Camphill communities will not only attract less interest, but will have a lot less to show-case to the world when it is interested.

      There is no point because we do not know what purpose research is meant to serve: As Andrew points out, this brings us full circle, but I would just like to add one thing. I think this sense of pointlessness will prevail if research is plugged just for the sake of it, as some abstract and objective ‘good’ that Camphill must simply ‘do’, that management decrees, regulations require or ‘the market’ demands. Research will be appropriate in some situations and not in others. For an activity to be meaningful community members need to have a personal connection to it, in addition to appreciating the benefits it can bring to the whole community or wider movement. This, for me, is another reason why we should be making efforts to encourage Camphillers themselves to engage in research, and not only to support the commissioning of independent experts.

      It requires people experienced in research; it is difficult: See below.

      Which brings me to the CRN and a response to the ‘how’ question. All of the concerns raised could be addressed by the formation of a body specifically mandated to address them. A research committee or council (or regional committees), consisting of Camphill community representatives and academic advisors, could be tasked with the following:

      • consulting with stakeholders and developing long-term research strategies;
      • raising and allocating funds for research projects;
      • building partnerships with universities, foundations and other external organisations;
      • disseminating information about research and publications;
      • offering support and advice for communities or individuals wishing to engage in research.

      We have gone some way towards this in setting up the research network, the website and library. Formalising this work through the establishment of a research council, with a core membership and a wider pool of advisors, is the next logical step. The success of this initiative will depend on whether Camphill governing bodies recognise the need and potential for research, and whether individuals with relevant expertise and experience are prepared to step forward and support them in carrying it out. Consider this an invitation to get this show on the road!

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