Reflecting on engagement

Public member, Dr Anusree Biswas Sasidharan, shares her experiences of what it was like to be involved in the development of the ARC KSS PCIE Strategy.

"I was invited to take part in the ARC KSS Public and Community Involvement and Engagement strategy working group to look at developing research partnerships and the implementation of research into practice.  We were a group of twenty composed of experts by experience, researchers, residents, professionals or ARC employees. The group was diverse, dynamic and reflective, which was conducive to great discussions, skilfully chaired by Pippa Shaw who gently guided us through the topics. We were broken into smaller themed groups and my group looked at ‘inclusive opportunities’ and ‘working together’. What struck me in the first session was that it felt like a genuine piece of co-production, we were being asked to be involved in the visioning, aims and definitions – setting the tone and direction of travel - the fundamentals of the project. 

"The group itself understood the value of co-production and was keen to encourage co-production in the research that ARC conducted at all stages, from the design and planning stages through to building relationships in communities, through to a clear renumeration policy, SMART goals and measures, valuing inclusive practices and ensuring there was feedback and opportunities for co-producing the research itself.

"This is what good engagement feels like. I felt listened to, my thoughts and ideas along with those of my engagement colleagues were actioned and valued; as a group we came up with shared solutions in a relationship that felt like genuine partnership. Further, our time was valued and renumerated.

"A word of caution however, whilst I felt that the developing of the strategy was successful, the strategy will only be fully realised in its implementation. ARC and its associated researchers need to be able to be sensitive to the way their research is carried out in communities, especially amongst those seldom heard groups where there is often disparity in power (amongst minoritised ethnic groups, disabilities groups, people experiencing homelessness or trauma and faith groups for example). Researchers need to move away from tokenistic involvement and recognise the value of building trusting relationships and ongoing dialogue."

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