Methodology

We are employing a method of research known as collaborative ethnography. In collaborative ethnography, research participants are repeatedly invited to shape the research process by raising research questions, providing feedback on findings, and helping to explain findings to the public. This approach allows for research that privileges the perspectives of research participants and creates knowledge that people can use to make change. Using this method, we are able to observe the impact of changes in unemployment insurance (UI) and employment insurance (EI) and support services in both London and Saint Louis. Comparing policy and service delivery practices in these cities sheds new light on similarities and differences in approaches to long-term unemployment as well as the consequences of those approaches for service delivery and everyday life.

Phase 1: focuses on gathering information on public policies and services related to unemployment in both research sites. This phase also includes interviews with 15 key stakeholders (7-8 in each site) who are involved in creating and delivering employment support services in each context. Findings from this phase situate data generation and analysis in the following phases.

Phase 2: involves conducting two interviews with up to 20 front-line service providers at employment service agencies (~10 from each site). We will also conduct two to four observation sessions with each service provider to better understand the service provision process and service provider/service seeker interactions, as well as service providers situated understandings of long-term unemployment. This phase concludes with two service provider focus groups (one per context) to enable reflection on the findings.

Phase 3: will generate data with 15 individuals from London and Saint Louis who are accessing employment support services and self-identify as long-term unemployed. In a number of meetings spread across six months, interviews, participant observations, and other experiential methods will be used to determine how people navigate service delivery practices and everyday life during long-term unemployment.

Phase 4: will focus on bringing findings from Phases 1-3 together and use dissemination as a means of critically considering how policies and practices shape how people think about and act in relation to long-term unemployment. Events with participants from all study phases as well as other key stakeholders will provide opportunities to discuss findings and consider potential next steps for policy and service delivery transformations.