Boundary objects: Engaging and bridging needs of people in participatory research by arts-based methods

Barbara Groot*, Tineke Abma

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Participatory health research (PHR) is a research approach in which people, including hidden populations, share lived experiences about health inequities to improve their situation through collective action. Boundary objects are produced, using arts-based methods, to be heard by stakeholders. These can bring about dialogue, connection, and involvement in a mission for social justice. This study aims to gain insight into the value and ethical issues of boundary objects that address health inequalities. A qualitative evaluation is conducted on three different boundary objects, created in different participatory studies with marginalized populations (mothers in poverty, psychiatric patients, and unemployed people). A successful boundary object evokes emotions among those who created the objects and those encountering these objects. Such objects move people and create an impulse for change. The more provocative the object, the more people feel triggered to foster change. Boundary objects may cross personal boundaries and could provoke feelings of discomfort and ignorance. Therefore, it is necessary to pay attention to ethics work. Boundary objects that are made by people from hidden populations may spur actions and create influence by improving the understanding of the needs of hidden populations. A dialogue about these needs is an essential step towards social justice.
Original languageEnglish
Article number7903
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2021

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