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Are you talking to me?

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According to Albert Einstein, the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Along the same lines, isn’t it a bit crazy to always listen to the same people and expect to hear different things?

At Shared Intelligence, we want to make sure our clients get the best from the research they commission; sometimes this means working with them to move beyond the groups they are already hearing from to find out more about seldom-heard groups.

These groups sometimes need a more creative approach to getting in touch. A clear example is digital engagement: the proliferation of digital devices might give the sense that everyone is online, but in our experience relying on this mode of contact can exclude a surprising number of potential users. Once in contact, we are expert at engaging seldom-heard from groups. We produced the Good Engagement practice for the NHS. The principles set out in the guide, such as “equal relationships and mutual respect”, are fundamental to our approach. We also have skilled interviewers, able to take a personal and considered approach.

There is a clear ethical argument for this, but hearing from different groups is also vital for better decision making, more effective services, and greater community support. Ultimately, we are seeking to help our clients to deliver a better service.

Here are some recent examples of our work:

  • Si carried out research for Prostate Cancer UK. We heard a lot of good things about the charity from users; but the charity was concerned that there were groups they didn’t know about. With the client, we decided to devote more of the research to non-users and in particular marginalised or vulnerable groups. This led us to arrange visits to a prison, a homeless centre and a community centre for deaf people among others. From this, we were able to highlight specific, often subtle barriers to information non-users faced.
  • Si carried out research into unemployed people aged over 50 in a London borough for the local Employment Services Board. Reflecting the diverse population of London, we engaged with research participants whose first language was not English and for whom this was a barrier to finding work. Some participants had reservations about taking part in the research (because of the language barrier), but we were able to reassure them and with our encouragement they were able to contribute meaningfully. This meant we were able to present a more accurate picture of the issues in the area.
  • Si conducted an evaluation of a health intervention in a prison. We were able to interview a range of project stakeholders, but had heard little from the prisoners themselves. Despite logistical challenges associated with hearing from this group, we were able to produce and get a strong response to a survey. This ensured we were hearing directly from those most impacted by the intervention and were able to reflect this in our findings, strengthening the evaluation.
  • Si is conducting research on behalf of local councils into the health needs of the Gypsy and Traveller community. Although the clients were aware that this group had poor health outcomes, they faced barriers to engaging with them. We have partnered with a community-based organisation, Gypsylife, to ensure we can truly engage with this marginalised community to learn more about their barriers to health services and design effective interventions.

Better engagement is relevant across a broad range of services and providers, including housing associations, local authorities, or charities.

If you would like to hear more about our approach or to discuss how this could be relevant to you, please get in touch.

Email Dr Clare Collins or Stephen Rocks

020 7756 7600

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