In order to understand the security needs and priorities of the UK public and to create a human security strategy that is based on principles of equality, inclusion and sustainability, the project includes a research component as well as working with civil society groups in the UK and internationally.
This page contains detailed information about how the project will be carried out with our research and civil society partners. If you are looking for information about how this might be something you can participate in, please see our ‘get involved’ page.
Rethinking Security is working with a team from Coventry University’s Centre for Peace, Trust and Social Relations (CTPSR) to conduct public research
The aim of Alternative Security Review is to change the way how UK security policy is generated, building on an approach that promotes peace, human wellbeing, and environmental sustainability. It intends to bridge an extant gap between national or state security and human security. Gathering, analysing and articulating priorities for future security policy is an important objective of the project, which therefore operates with a mixture of bottom-up, participatory and inclusive research methods.
Visualising Security: A Photovoice Project (May – September 2022)
Visualising Security is based on the academic methods photovoice and photo elicitation. These are innovative, arts-based and participatory, and therefore useful to obtain in-depth information and possibly discover new issues that has not been widely discussed before. Participants from local communities in the UK (for instance in Coventry) are asked to take at least five photographs within a 2-week timeframe. The photographs showcase possible answers to the question: ‘What does security mean to me?’ The research team consciously does not give any definition for security beforehand, because it is an important element of the project to work with bottom-up definitions coming directly from the participants, informed by their everyday life. At the end of the 2-week period, participants are invited to present their photos at a focus group and explain their approach to security, based on the visual material, with the latter providing an associative, innovative and multidimensional enrichment to the verbal conversation. Visualising Security can be a great opportunity to bring attention to issues that matter to people in their community, and to discover them more with the help of the photographic eye.
Public Opinion Survey and Youth Survey (September-December 2022)
Both the Public Opinion Survey and the Youth Survey will provide representative, large-scale data to explore and compare understandings, critiques and experiences of security. The goal to gather this type of data is to get a generalisable and representative picture of current ideas and trends across the whole UK population. The Public Opinion Survey will focus on the older population (30+); quota sampling will ensure responses from equal numbers of males and females, from different groups (ethnic, religious, etc.) across different age ranges, and from different parts of the country. The Youth Survey will focus on young people (16-30) with a similarly diverse quota sampling.
Both surveys will aim to make statistically significant comparisons between different subgroups within the two populations. The questionnaires will be informed by preliminary findings of Visualising Security. For instance, there will be sections on understandings of security; perceptions of difference between human and state security; perceptions of gaps in current security discourses and key issues that participants would like to be included (as dependant variables). Also, there will be sections on the key demographics of religion, gender, age, ethnicity, denominational affiliation, and sense of religious commitment (as independent variables). Data will be analysed using both descriptive and inferential tools.
Citizen Social Science (Summer 2023)
Citizen Social Science is a relatively new branch of Citizen Science with no clear set of rules, so the parameters are largely developed by each provider. The Citizen Social Science course offered as part of the Alternative Security Review intends to encourage participants to organise their mini social science projects in their communities, with a team of academics mentoring them through the choice of methods, as well as engaging in their respective fields. This will happen through cooperation with researchers at CTPSR and FabLab Coventry. The course will contain a basic training in social sciences: an introduction to theories, methodologies and research ethics, similarly to courses delivered to undergraduate students. Participants will then be asked to conduct both data collection and analysis, which will be subsequently presented to the mentoring academics at the end of the process. Citizen Social Science can be very useful to raise attention to local security issues, and to give local people the confidence to speak up and make an actual impact. It operates with an insider’s access and viewpoint that a professional researcher from the ‘outside’ might not get to in such a short timeframe.
Interviews with policymakers (March – June 2023)
These semi-structured interviews will help the research team understand policymakers’ perspective on security issues and the dimension they can add to some of the preliminary findings from Visualising Security and the two surveys. This research method is based on one-to-one, in-depth spoken conversations. The research team will choose the interview partners through snowball sampling, starting with immediate contacts within CTPSR and the Rethinking Security Network, then possibly expanding the sample to their personal contacts as well. Although there will be a draft script, the conversation will also have a degree of spontaneity, possibly turning to unexpected directions depending on what the participant finds important to discuss about security.
Focus groups with organisations (June 2023)
These focus groups will be very similar to the semi-structured interviews, with the difference that they will include more people at the same time in the same (online or offline) location, engaging in a conversation with both the research team member(s) and each other. These conversations will serve the purpose of understanding how security is defined and dealt with in the everyday work of local, regional, international, governmental and non-governmental organisations, and it will also add further dimensions to some of our preliminary findings. This research method is based on in-depth spoken conversations within a group consisting of 3-6 people, with one or more research team member(s) asking some open-ended questions as an input. The organisations will be chosen through snowball sampling, starting with immediate contacts within CTPSR and the Rethinking Security Network, then possibly expanding the sample to their own contacts as well. Although there will be a draft script, the conversations will also have a degree of spontaneity, possibly turning to unexpected directions depending on what the group finds important to discuss about security.
Open Call for Submissions (May – July 2023)
This method will provide an opportunity for anyone all around the UK to write us written testimonials about what security means to them. This will be an ideal method for anyone who does not have time, resources or interest to participate in any of the other data gathering methods, yet still want to let the project know what security means to them. The email narratives, just like the rest of the verbal/written data collected throughout the project (such as the transcriptions of the Visualising Security focus groups, the interviews with the elite, or the organisational focus groups), will be analysed through various social science-based text analysis methods.
Civil Society Evidence and Input
In the UK, civil society groups are actively seeking solutions for many of the insecurities that people face now and for the future. From climate change, to feeling empowered to participate in politics, to health security, the solutions to the insecurities that we feel are often out there, but the groups are not invited in to policy space where security is discussed.
Part of the Alternative Security Review’s methodology is going to those groups who are not included in security policy and/or those who have some answers to human insecurities and finding out about their experiences and solutions.
Through a series of roundtables, we are talking to civil society groups, gathering evidence about the effects of current insecurities on those they work with and listening to what priorities they have for increasing human security.
The results of these will be used to inform our Human Security Strategy and reports will be published during the process.
Other Academic Partnerships
Rethinking Security has partnered with the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex on a project called Embodying Peace. They are working with women in Iraq and Palestine to understand what it feels like, physically, to maintain peace or steadfastness in the midst of violent conflict. We will support dissemination of the findings.
Working with International Partners
The UK’s approach to security does not just affect the safety and wellbeing of people in the UK, or British citizens living abroad; it also has far-reaching impacts on people living all over the world. That might include, for example, the presence of British military bases, operations or occupations, the impact of UK development assistance, or the current and historical impact of UK energy policies and burning of fossil fuels. So we also need to understand this global impact and how all aspects of UK policy can contribute to a common security agenda that benefits all humanity.
To research this, we will be working with partners including the global Security Policy Alternatives Network (SPAN), Peace Direct and its network of local peacebuilding organisations across the Global South, and the Institute for Development Studies (IDS) as it works with women in Iraq and Palestine.
We also work with an informal network of organisations devoted to challenging and rethinking approaches to security within their own countries, primarily in EU and NATO countries, including Germany, France, Sweden, Austria, Canada and the United States. While each country has its own historical context and challenges, we can learn from one another about good practice, bad practice and means to influence progressive change.
Working with Civil Society in the UK
In the UK, civil society is actively seeking solutions for many of the insecurities that people face now and for the future. From climate change, to feeling empowered to participate in politics, to health security, there are many areas where the UK does not seem to be meeting the needs of its own population.
We are talking to civil society groups, gathering evidence about the effects of current insecurities on those they work with and listening to what priorities they have for increasing human security.
The results of these will be detailed in publications and also used to inform our Human Security Strategy.