Giving people a voice to influence positive change in health and social care

01225 701851 |

Evolving Communities Logo

Five creative ways to engage with the public in health and care research

by | Jan 23, 2019 | Our Blog

Including public opinions in health and care strategy and planning is of crucial importance to the UK government, as well as public and private sector organisations.

Shared decision making with communities ensure that services meet the needs of those who are using them.  But what happens when the public get tired of being consulted with and tune out?

One way to overcome this is to employ alternative methods to the same old, rigid techniques that are used time and time again.  It is time to try something different! Here are five creative methods that we have or would love to make use of.

1. Go on the road!

Are you finding it difficult to get the public to come to you?  Then visit local people in their own communities!  During September 2017 Healthwatch Wiltshire embarked on a two-week Campervan & Comments Tour of the county in a 1969 VW Campervan called Milo.  The aim of the tour was to get the word out about Healthwatch, and to ask people to share their experiences of health and social care.  The tour visited supermarkets, schools, markets and leisure centres.  Free goodies were available to participants, and the press were invited along to cover the events.  Over the two-week tour 2,077 comments were collected!  The event was such a success, Milo will be on the road again in March 2019, this time visiting Somerset and Gloucestershire with the local Healthwatch teams.

2. Hold a themed community event

As mentioned in our previous blog post, community events can give you valuable insight into your research projects.  But why not push the boat out even further and theme your event around a fete or festival?  The Eden Project utilised this pioneering public engagement technique in order to attract a broad audience of people who would usually be apprehensive about ‘serious’ public consultations.  Around 1,000 people attended their community fete events, encouraged by the jovial atmosphere, fun activities and creative installations – elaborately decorated with heaps of bunting!

3. Participant filmmakers

The collection of research data using videos has become more common in recent years, but it can be time consuming, and may not capture the full experiences of the people it’s trying to represent.  One way to overcome this is to hand over the responsibility and creativity to the participants!  And that is exactly what Canadian researchers did in 2012 when working with youth from a remote Inuit community in Labrador.  Workshops were held in which young people were taught how to use video editing software and were tasked with creating a short video about their life experiences.  You can view the video here.

4. Digital storytelling

If you have a Facebook or Instagram profile, you have probably seen the page Humans of New York.  The Humans of New York photo-blog was started by photographer Brandon Stanton in 2010.  This form of digital storytelling involves interviews with strangers, who share their stories through portraits and mini-narratives.  Each story acts as a call to action and has the potential to increase engagement and interest.  This type of engagement method could work well with participants who only have limited amount of time to tell their stories, such as staff and patients in a hospital setting.  In fact, a series about childhood cancer was produced by Humans of New York.  Completed stories can be disseminated on social media or at a special “gallery” style event.

5. Jazz up an interview with cultural probes

There’s a reason why interviews and focus groups are the most common tools for gathering feedback – they work really well.  But there is no reason why they can’t be enhanced and supported with creative add-ons.  Cultural probes have been used since 1999 and involve the use of tools, artefacts and tasks intended to incite people to think about their world in new ways.  It is particularly useful for hard to reach groups whose culture, behaviours and attitudes may not be well known to the researcher.  Kits are made up of things such as disposable cameras, maps, stickers, diaries, notebooks and postcards.  Activities should be fun, but professional.  Kits are delivered to the participants with instructions, and once completed the researcher meets up with participants individually, or in a group, to share their completed kits and engage in deeper conversation.  Key to analysis is heading back to the participant to check if the researchers have interpreted their findings correctly.

Get the right fit

As with any research, you will need to match your engagement methods to the community you wish to reach and the questions you want answered.  One of the best ways of doing this is to get your participants involved in the research process right from the start.  And for some, more traditional methods may still be king.

If you have used any creative engagement methods, why not send us a tweet?

Share This
Skip to content