Advancing the Co-Reasercher Program

Co-researchers for the Cape Town Project Site 2009Advancing the Co-Researcher Program

The co-researchers were the Cape Town 2009 Project Teams most valuable assets as they were our direct link to the community. Since the co-researchers are community members who speak English and are educated, they provided skills vital to completing some of our work. We utilized the co-researchers skills for aspects of our project as well as coordinating them to work with the other WPI project teams.  The first day in the park we organized a series of ice-breaker activities including songs, traditional African games, and tours. This allowed the co-researchers to get to know the teams early on in a more relaxed environment.  This also created a comfortable environment for the co-researchers and the students to start working in right away. We later organized a drumming activity with WPI teams, co-researchers, and the Shaster volunteers.  Once project work commenced on a daily basis we made sure a co-researcher was available if a team needed assistance and also encouraged the co-researchers to become involved with the teams regularly. The co-researchers were beneficial to the other teams by giving tours of the community, taking pictures, helping them run their experiments, and finding people for the groups to interview.   We were able to encourage teams to work with the co-researchers when they did not realize there was an opportunity to do so.  The co-researchers also were a great resource to the entire community as they assisted them with getting involved in the redevelopment process by identifying their views through surveys and interviews. The co-researchers are also essential aspect to keeping the Cape Town 2009 projects sustainable since they now have the most knowledge of the WPI projects.

During the early weeks of the project we provided the co-researchers with basic computer and presentation skills.  We started by using a typing program that the co-researchers used daily allowing them to pick up the skill quickly.  At the same time we introduced the concept of story boards to help them plan presentations. We taught them how to develop storyboards to show how to logically plan out a story to be presented on paper.  We then provided them with some basic camera training so they would be able to take the pictures that would accompany their presentations.The first storyboard documented the Indlovu Project and what a specific community member, Tata Mbele, did to help rebuild after the fire. The next storyboards were centered around each co-researcher and their life stories. Afterwards, some co-researchers talked about their stories on camera. The co-researchers were insightful when it came to planning out the photos to be taken, and also setting the scene for each photo. Tata Mbele and the co-researchers all felt very passionate about the stories they were telling. They all said that the these stories are an important part of the redevelopment process and Monwabisi Park residents need to know the effort people are putting forth at the Indlovu Project.

We started a photo shop located at the Indlovu Center at the end of our project that we intend to remain sustainable. Using the skills they acquired during the early weeks of our project the co-researchers were ideal for running this center.  They will be able to keep the business running without taking the time for additional training allowing it to start immediately.We trained them to use the specific camera and photo printer we purchased for the photo shop. They developed word processing skills because a computer may be used along with the camera and printer for transferring photos to CD-ROMs or other portable media devices for visitors of the park. They may also use the computer to write captions for specific pictures on the photo board. After all the pictures were taken they learned how to upload these pictures onto the computer for further editing and review.  At the celebration day the co-researchers were able to use all of the skills they had learned to put together a photo presentation for the community and others in attendance about the WPI projects and the work they accomplished.