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It is important that this research has been conducted in an ethical way and that has a positive impact on the people involved. Below is a description of how I have tried to adhere to the guiding principles set out by Sheffield Hallam University’s research ethics policy. This covers four areas:
- Beneficence – doing positive good
- Non-malfeasance – doing no harm
- Informed consent – participants are aware of the aims of the research and possible risks to them
- Confidentiality and anonymity – research data is kept secure and identities of participants are protected.
Beneficence – do positive good
This research topic was chosen because it is of current importance to Netskills as well as other organisations in the sector. There are benefits to Netskills’ own practice that arise from an open discussion about an aspect of its work. I hope that the outcomes of this research will provide a framework for future developments within the organisation buy giving a greater theoretical grounding to some of its project support work and workshop programme. Netskills is actively engaged in providing guidance to research project teams in using digital storytelling to assist in the dissemination of their findings and impacts. Through this dissertation, Netskills can demonstrate that as an organisation it is facing the same issues and opportunities as the project teams are giving it greater authority in this area.
Although there is a great deal of activity and research into the uses of digital storytelling, little attention in the literature has been paid to its use in organisational contexts. This research, despite being a small case study is an attempt to consider how the approaches of digital storytelling might be applied in a new context.
Non-Malfeasance – do no harm
The research topic for this dissertation entails limited risk to participants. There is nothing in the research methods that would place the health or safety of the participants or their families at risk. I identified a small risk that disclosure of opinions in the interviews could potentially affect relationships within the team with a very minor risk of affecting the likelihood of progression within the organisation.
Participants were made aware that their involvement was completely voluntary and that choosing not to be involved would have no adverse effect on their standing at work. Further discussion of the mitigation of risks to individuals is outlined below in the section on confidentiality.
Each participant was fully informed of the aims, methods and outcomes of the research. This was formally outlined in the consent form that can be found in Appendix 3. This included the option for a participant to withdraw at any time with no questions asked and with no impact on their appraisal process at work. The details for the course leader were clearly printed on the form should participants have concerns about the research they did not feel could be addressed with me.
As the outcomes of the research would have a direct impact on Netskills and as the intention has been to publish the dissertation on an open platform it was important as a courtesy to make the director David Hartland aware of the research and gain his consent and offer an opportunity for him to express his views.
The interviews were conducted in private and recorded on a digital audio device for ease of transcription. The recordings themselves have been kept on a web-based storage service which is password protected, as have the transcriptions of the interviews. The recordings and transcription have not been made available to anyone but myself.
It was important that participants were able to speak freely about the issues around storytelling. All were informed in the consent document that data would be anonymised. No participants’ names have been referred to during the analysis or discussion for the data. I have referred to each person by a set of initials that bare no relation to the person’s actual name.
It may be possible for people within Netskills or those closely related to it to determine individuals’ identities from references to particular quotes, their gender or areas of interest.
I have determined that the risk posed to individuals by the fact they are potentially identifiable is low. The topic itself, although important, is relatively uncontroversial. Nothing was said in the interviews which attacked particular individuals or could do the organisation’s reputation any serious harm. I judge that nothing that was said is likely to affect an individual’s safety or wellbeing, their professional reputation or chance of progression.
As a participant observer I can view the comments given in the interviews within the context of normal office discourse. Where criticism of the organisation occurs it is in keeping with sentiments that have been openly expressed in other forums. The general culture within Netskills is one that is open to honest airing of views from time to time so there is nothing in this dissertation which is not in line with that.
The counterweight to that argument is that as a participant observer my view of the risk factors involved may be coloured by my perceptions of the organisation I work for and my current work relationships.
Nevertheless, I still feel the risk to the participants is low. After submission of this work I will be disseminating its findings to the team and prior to it being made openly available on the web at which point all participants will have an opportunity to comment on how they have been represented.
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