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Even the most powerful waves begin as a ripple. Yet once a wave meets its crest, nothing can slow its force. Witnessing the tremendous efforts by attendees at SVRI Forum 2022 to reduce violence against children and women was very much emblematic of a wave; while there is still far to go to end violence driven by gender inequality, the initiatives shared at the Forum had such momentum, that it gave me optimism that there is only forward from here.

The conference was alive with positive energy, excited chatter, safe spaces, and people from all corners of the world coming together to share their knowledge, skills, and passion to work towards a common goal. There was space for deliberating, challenging, and advancing the evidence, as well as space for critical reflection on who we are as individual researchers, practitioners, and policymakers. There was also time for celebration; celebration of successes, no matter how small; of the incredible and beautiful diversity in knowledge, experiences, and cultures represented; and a celebration of what we are trying to collectively achieve.

Conference sessions covered topics of tremendous breadth, helping me gain powerful new perspectives on my own work, particularly around male engagement in parenting programmes, participatory research, and ethical research practices. Importantly, one fundamental lesson that stood out to me was the urgent need to consider how best to decolonize research, and to act. Indeed, there was a certain recognition that transcended collegial conversations and presentations; the need to do things differently. Calls to shift power away from the western gaze rung through the halls of the conference. What counts as legitimate knowledge, what knowledge is deemed worthy of collecting and who decides, and who ultimately owns that knowledge, were all deliberated and the status quo denounced.  There needs to be a transformation in research praxis; an unlearning and relearning.

Even when we think about capacity building, funding, and relationship-building, there is tremendous need to look inward as a discipline, and challenge whose interests are being served and why, and whose voices are being amplified.

Having this important opportunity to collectively reflect on the work we are undertaking and how was central to my own learning at the SVRI Forum. As I continue to weave together my own journey of de-centering and re-centering, being reflexive and considering my own positionality is paramount, while also critiquing how I fit within the broader research ecosystem which has been constructed and reinforced by the west. Quoting Audrey Lorde, a conference speaker reminded us that “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house”, and thus we need to reconsider how to construct a new system of truly decolonized research. While the research enterprise may be grounded in the pursuit of equity as an outcome, we have long to go before we can claim equity in process. This is no easy task, however the SVRI Forum imparted upon me optimism that in having these discussions, we are headed in the right direction. I hope, and indeed expect, that the critical reflections exchanged at SVRI will serve not merely as a moment, but as a platform from which to turn discourse into action. I believe it will.

The SVRI Forum 2022 was an event I will never forget. It served as a reminder that no one individual, one organisation, nor one discipline or sector can make change on their own. We are in this important pursuit together, and only through deep and meaningful collaborations, community-led efforts, and collective support, can we achieve it.

Waves are constant; it takes repetition and persistence to turn a rock into sand, as it does to create any form of change. With the relentless pursuit of seeing a world without violence, I am confident that, with persistence, we can achieve our goal.

Written by Kathleen Murphy

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