Realisation of the Guide AVEC
The AVEC approach was created by experienced experts who were involved in the research project Avec led by the Collectif pour un Québec sans pauvreté. It was important for them to spread their thoughts on supporting people living in poverty and on social exclusion in research.
Due to the stigmas and prejudices often affecting people living in poverty, they sometimes come to believe that they have little competence and knowledge. They may not be able to cope with work contexts that require a certain amount of rigour. On the other hand, they have a truly significant analytical capacity to understand their reality (e.g. knowledge of the dynamics that maintain social issues).
The AVEC approach emphasizes that failing to involve the people concerned in social research on issues such as poverty and social exclusion hinders the development of appropriate interventions and that ignoring the expertise of the people concerned by the research project perpetuates power relations and exacerbates inequity.
Our society values the integration of the people concerned in research, but such people are not always supported to encourage their participation. Consequently, it is easy to fall into instrumentalization by limiting their role to providing testimony or cautionary social examples.
Using the guide to the AVEC approach, it is possible to reflect on the conditions that are favourable to the engagement of community members in a research process at different levels.
The AVEC approach values the knowledge of experiential experts, without prejudice, in order to achieve greater social equality. This approach expresses the importance of thinking, deciding and acting WITH the experiential experts.
Two logical encounters
However, acting together often means finding common ground between two different ways of approaching the reality of the people involved in the research (poverty-social exclusion).
Some call these two views square thinking and round thinking:
- Square thinking refers to more scientific and theoretical thinking.
- Round thinking is thinking related to experience. It is a more intuitive thinking, based on experience and perceptions that do not disregard emotion.
In other words, the AVEC approach promotes the convergence and reconciliation of these two ways of thinking by acknowledging them and their potential to broaden our collective analysis.
It is crucial to place experiential experts at the very heart of the research so that they can be part of the process. Not only as spectators, but as actors in their own right.
How the approach works
Using the AVEC approach guidebook, it is possible to reflect on the conditions that will promote involvement of the people targeted by the research process, at different levels. The guidebook underlines the importance of putting in place a form of contract that specifies;
- The roles and responsibilities of each person
- The values and principles of the approach
- Procedural rules (Decision-making)
- Ethical considerations (Confidentiality)
- The basic rules for supporting guidance
The AVEC approach promotes the presence of a facilitator during the research process so that he or she can identify difficult situations that may hinder the involvement of people with experience.
Practices applied in the participatory process
Several practices have been used during the process, but this does not mean that all of them should be applied. It is important to collectively judge which ones are applicable and necessary. Especially by consulting the people involved to validate and by inventing practices that can promote their engagement in research. Here is an exercise that can be done:
Here is an exercise that can be done with the people concerned, i.e. those experiencing poverty and social exclusion who are engaged in research. Working from the linked PDF document (, cut out the different sections and ask the people involved in the research to prioritize them. Collectively, they will have to discuss the practices that they consider important to implement. This reflection helps identify practices that may be relevant in a participatory research process.