Negotiating Relationships Between Researchers, Gatekeepers, and Hard-to-Reach Groups of Population as a Challenge for Social Work Research

Zuzana Broskevičová, Barbora Gřundělová

Zuzana Broskevičová is a Ph.D. student at the Faculty of Social Studies, University of Ostrava. She has a master’s degree in Sociology and Cultural Anthropology at Palacký University in Olomouc. Her research interests include combining knowledge from different social science disciplines in order to better explain complex social problems such as poverty and their impact on the everyday life of social work clients.

Barbora Gřundělová is an assistant professor at the Department of Social Work, Faculty of Social Studies. She has a master’s degree in Public Policy and Human Resources and PhD in Social Work. Her research focuses on family social work. In her publications, she deals with gender perceptions and stereotypes in social work practices, the gendered constructions of women and men as clients, and the gender competence of social workers.

OBJECTIVES: In this paper, we try to answer the question of how social work research collaboration with gatekeepers is negotiated, and how it is maintained or hindered during the research process. THEORETICAL BASE: The basis is critical theory. Critical research on gatekeepers that takes into account the power position of the “intermediary” can help understand not only the benefits of gatekeeper involvement, but also the barriers to cooperation and the gatekeeper’s manipulation strategies. METHODS: The presented literature review looks at the different relationships that exist between researchers, gatekeepers, and socially excluded people. Based on an analysis of thirty research papers, we identified barriers and catalysts to negotiating research relationships between researchers, gatekeepers, and hard-to-reach groups, and described two theoretical conceptions of collaboration with gatekeepers in social work research. OUTCOMES: These conceptions deal with vertical and horizontal social ties, relationships of power, and trust between actors in the research process. Gaining researcher access to hard-to-reach groups through gatekeepers has been shown to be a dynamic interactive process that takes place within certain, more or less given frameworks of opportunities and barriers. SOCIAL WORK IMPLICATIONS: This article provides a unique insight into the findings relevant to research on various hard-to-reach, hidden and vulnerable populations in social work.

gatekeeper, hard-to-reach, relationships, access, cooperation

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