Engagement leads to more meaningful involvement and needs to be considered at an early stage. A realistic amount of time and money must be given for this preliminary work. There is a tendency to do what is easiest and fastest, for researchers to keep going to the same groups of individuals or existing public involvement groups within the NHS for their opinions. However, without wider engagement, researchers run the risk of hearing from the same voices all the time and may fail to hear the key issues for the communities they are working with.
We recommend you develop your own contacts, through engagement work. Undertaking your own engagement work should really be the starting point of your work with the public. If you take the time to do this, you will be creating an evolving network specific to your research, that, if maintained, with good communication, should contribute to your research success.
Speak to the PCIE Team as they can advise you on how to begin your engagement work. The team also work with a group of public advisors who may be able to be part of your research.
Researchers and research organisations use a range of different ways to engage with the public. Here are some ways you can start to engage with members of the public relevant to your research:
- Identify the people who you would like to work with.
- Many charities and community organisations have a huge amount of knowledge, expertise and connections with specific communities. Making time to connect with these organisations can be really valuable in building trusting relationships and making contacts. These community groups may also be able to help you find public members with lived experience. In every county, there is a database of community organisations, see the resources section for the ones in Kent, Surrey and Sussex.
- Find out if colleagues have any existing contacts that will be relevant or build on relationships developed in previous research projects
- Prepare a Plain English summary/advert of your research explaining why you would like to work with the public. Get used to talking about your research in this way.
- Attend a meeting/meetings held by some of these community groups and listen with no agenda of your own.
- There will be key individuals within community organisations, who can help you to engage with the public you want to work with. Identify who they are. Once you have connections with some of these individuals, ask if they know of other relevant groups, networks or individuals who might be interested.
- Once you have more established links, you can begin to organise your own event or activity relating to your research. For example, workshops, focus groups, peer group interviews, surveys.
Maintaining links with the members of the public that you work with is vital. As mentioned before, the public are often motivated to get involved with applied health and social care research because of the potential impact it will have on their lives. For this reason, it is important from the outset that you are honest with the people you are working with and that you keep in touch; giving them updates on your research and the potential for implementation.
Involving Children and Young People
As with the involvement of adults, involvement of children and young people in research may take many forms but requires some different considerations both in the planning for their involvement and in the activity of involvement itself. This is to ensure it is a meaningful, appropriate, safe and mutually enjoyable experience and not just a tick box gesture. The following document Involving children and young people as advisors in research. Top tips and essential key issues for researchers from the NIHR outlines:
- top tips for researchers
- practical and essential information on how to plan the involvement of children and young people in research including considerations around safeguarding and informed consent
- guidance around recognition and reward for children and young people’s involvement
- where to go for more detailed guidance and other resources
Links to Resources:
The following databases list community organisations and groups within that area.
Kent County Council Community Directory
West Sussex County Council's list of groups and activities
Surrey does not seem to have such a database but they do have Surrey-i, where you can find the demographics of the area.