Lived experiences of poverty in Dublin mapped out in walk-and-talk study

Posted on: 06 October 2023

Stigma of place is a core feature of extreme poverty in Ireland, according to new research published today [Oct, 6th] by the School of Social Work and Social Policy, Trinity College Dublin.

The study employed an innovative walk-and-talk research method ­– 11 participants who have experienced poverty in Dublin led a researcher on a walk-through Dublin to reflect on their lives.

This testimony, captured in the medium of maps, photography and sound recordings, paint a stark picture of the spatial and geographical contours of class and social inequality in Dublin, explains author of the report, Dr Joe Whelan.

Dr Joe Whelan, Assistant Professor, School of Social Work and Social Policy, explained:

“The stigma of where you come from and a lack of ‘good’ options were described by the participants as core dimension of poverty. These were as real and visceral as material deprivation showing that poverty isn’t just a lack of money, it can also mean not having access to things others take for granted, not having opportunities for growth, for education, for hobbies, for mental health.

“In Ireland we have no shortage of information and public comment on poverty, but we have poor insight into the lived experience of poverty in Ireland today. Without this understanding, and an appreciation of the agency and voice of those experiencing poverty, we are ill equipped to fully take action to confront poverty.

“By involving participants in our research at every stage and by capturing their experiences through the medium of photography, sound recording and drawing/mapping this research has been able to connect with lived experiences of poverty in a tangible and visceral way.”

Still from Walking, Thinking and Talking film.

The research was funded by the Irish Research Council and was conducted in collaboration with NGO All Together in Dignity. And the report, entitled Walking, Thinking and Talking: An exploration of the lived experiences and hidden geographies of poverty using walking as a participatory arts methodologywas launched in the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission this morning.

One of the participants in the study Paul commented: “This project has been important because it has helped to take down barriers. It was open, organic and conducted in partnership.”

Andrew, another participant, added: “Even though there’s a wall around Trinity, there was no wall around this project. It was research conducted on an equal footing.”

The report, maps and photographs are available to view on the project website here. The project also involved the production of a short, animated film using the testimony captured during the walking interviews and this is also available on the project website.

This research highlights the need for a more expansive concept of consultation to ensure the voices of those directly affected by poverty are included in policymaking, says Dr Whelan.

“These voices need to be included in ways that are creative, substantive and meaningful. In addition, we recommend that, when possible, researchers should engage in participatory research as a way of coproducing knowledge. Arts based creative methodologies can help to make research accessible and meaningful for research participants and should be considered when safe and practicable.”

Dann Kenningham, National Coordinator, All Together in Dignity Ireland (ADT) added:

“This was an important piece of research for ATD Ireland to be involved in. The project has included the voices, ideas and expertise of those with lived experience of poverty and socio-economic discrimination which is central to ATD's work.  The project outputs, including the animated short, will be used by ATD to promote its ethos of solidarity among and in collaboration with the most disadvantaged and excluded families around the world.”

Media Contact:

Fiona Tyrrell | Media Relations | | +353 1 896 3551