Engaging with seldom heard groups
Over the past twenty five years we have gathered a wealth of understanding about appropriate engagement techniques, venues and methods of recruitment for seldom heard groups. We have achieved this by working with a network of community groups to advise us, help recruit participants and to aid facilitation if necessary. Using our knowledge we can work with clients to design inclusive methodologies and effective engagement approaches. Our flexible approach ensures that every group can have a voice to explain their everyday lives, issues or needs for public services.
Groups of people we have working with over the last few years include:
- children and young people
- people with learning difficulties and disabilities, including special educational needs
- people with mental health problems
- gypsies and travellers
- deprived communities
- gang members
- substance misusers
- homeless people
Our principles for working with seldom heard groups include:
- Going to where people are rather than expecting them to come to us;
- Thinking carefully about the timing of interviews and focus groups to ensure it is as easy as possible for a particular group of participants to take part, such as early evening meetings at homeless centres;
- Tailoring methods and stimulus materials to the audience;
- Brokering contact through existing community organisations and key individuals;
- Familiarising ourselves with relevant contextual factors such as religious festivals or cultural events to ensure sensitivity and to minimise clashes;
- Offering appropriate incentives, such as vouchers rather than cash for some vulnerable groups.
In order to gain the highest quality insights and to give seldom heard groups a clear voice, it can be necessary to be flexible in our approach to methodology. For example, it may be unrealistic to attempt to meet exact sampling quotas when working with transient communities such as homeless people. We expect engagement work to be unpredictable at times, and prepare for this by being very clear about what is absolutely essential for our chosen engagement technique to succeed, and what can be modified to suit the needs of participants on the day. The key to making this work in practice is having teams of experienced facilitators who are used to working closely together and can work flexibly to enable people to answer in a way that suits them.