One of the family carers in the group which Andy worked with was a woman in her early 70s whom I will call Kathleen. She agreed to be one of the ‘key community participants’ for the research. She had cared for her husband for many years before his death. I first met Kathleen when Andy and I started to work with the ‘Older Family Carers group’ on their campaign strategy for the 2016 General Election. I knew from the first day I met the group that they were a strong, informed and well-organised group who would know how to best use the student and research resources being offered to them. They had an analysis and strategic plan, which in turn would benefit a student on work-placement. At the first meeting of the group one member took the United Nations Convention on Human Rights out of his pocket and quoted relevant parts to me. As I got to know the group I asked Kathleen if she would be willing to be one of my case studies. I could have asked any of the impressive people in the group but I wanted to highlight some local and global women’s issues with the cross-disciplinary student group. Additionally Kathleen was not one of the obvious leaders in the group, she was relatively quiet and reserved, yet she was a solid long-standing member, knew her own mind and I felt, albeit just a feeling, that perhaps she was ready for more attention to her story and willing to take on a more pro-active role. My fieldnotes at that time note “sort of like on the cusp of leadership? Or is it something about wanting to tell her story?” Like the others in the group, she attended the ten workshops we facilitated on developing a campaign strategy for the Cork family carers for the election, along with an advocacy toolkit for working with other carer groups and a website. A major part of the work of this project was to produce videos featuring the lives of the carers. I was interested in exploring the impact of this work on Kathleen. What did it mean for her, did she benefit and what did she think the carers group as a whole benefited from the work?
She attended the campaigning workshops and was particularly interested in the digital story telling as described in the Case Study section. In the workshops, Kathleen was engaged, interested and clear in her thinking. She talked a great deal about her husband John who had died a number of years previously after a long illness. She talked about how she cared for him. Whereas Andy had spent a lot of time working with the group as a whole, I myself also worked very closely with Kathleen with a view to understanding her experience of this work. I particularly spent many hours with her to produce and edit her digital story. Kathleen also attended the computer-training course, which Andy and I facilitated.
My method of data gathering with Kathleen as participant was: field notes after each workshop; narrative analysis of a talk given by Kathleen and another carer, to the cross-disciplinary student group and other student groups in UCC; narrative analysis of her digital story from a content, visual and audio perspective and her general engagement with the process of making the story and working with Andy and myself; an in-depth semi-structured interview with her at the end of the project.