We often conduct research with the public on complex topics – the details of which are likely to be unfamiliar to participants. Over the years we have successfully helped members of the public to understand, discuss and debate a wide range of complex subjects, from the challenges of global food sustainability to the difficulties facing NHS bodies in redesigning services for a changing population.

Here are our five top tips for engaging on complex topics:

Use visuals to help convey complex information

Information can be provided through presentations, briefings, videos, quiz sessions and expert speakers to ensure that different learning styles are catered for. Complex information needs to be broken down into bite-sized pieces and made fully digestible. Visual information often works better, in this respect.

We often use graphically illustrated scenarios/story boards to aid comprehension of the key issues and to facilitate discussion. Graphic illustrations can convey potentially quite complex scenarios in a way that makes intuitive sense because it is easy to show relationships and links. Digital illustrations are relatively quick to produce and very adaptable, so they are a good fit for projects with tight timings and budgets.

In a number of recent projects, we have taken this further by developing bespoke whiteboard animations. The availability of off-the-shelf software such as Videoscribe (animations) makes the process relatively easy. At Community Research, we are increasingly using this technique as part of our deliberative research tool set and we’re finding it really works. More information on animations is provided in our blog post of 3rd July 2017.

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Listening to customers, inviting feedback on services and exploring their views on where and how money should be invested is crucial to establishing a sustainable approach to future water supplies. In advance of submitting its latest Water Resources Management Plan (WRMP), South Staffs Water (incorporating Cambridge Water) commissioned Community Research to carry out a study with household, business and future customers to help them to understand customers’ priorities and to invite them to share their views on a variety of investment options. The information has been used to develop the companies’ draft WRMPs and to contribute to their Business Plans.

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With many clients in the regulation sector, we know how seriously they have to take public engagement, both for understanding the needs of the audiences they are there to protect as well as for the development of policy and communications. So we read with interest an article from the Brookings Institution (a US based nonprofit public policy organisation) that reflects on a new paper ‘Power to the People: A New Trend in Regulation‘ by Robert Hahn, Robert Metcalfe and Florian Rundhammer’ which looks at customer engagement by regulators. They include 2 case studies from the UK too… Continue reading

We are often required to explain complex issues to research participants in deliberative (informed dialogue) research. Over the years we have used a number of ways to do this and we have successfully helped members of the public to understand the complexities of a wide range of subjects – from the challenges of global food sustainability; to the difficulties facing NHS bodies in redesigning services for a changing population.

We always tackle this challenge by using a variety of ways to provide information, in order to keep participants interested and engaged. Information may be provided through presentations, briefings, videos, quiz… Continue reading

We are delighted that The General Dental Council (GDC) has once again commissioned Community Research and Research Now to run their 5,000 strong Word of Mouth patient and public panel. We refreshed the panel last month to ensure that it was still a nationally representative sample and then it was straight back to business.

Over the past 2 years the GDC, the regulator for the dental profession, has used the panel to understand the views of patients and public on a variety of issues, including:

  • A large scale quantitative study to gain feedback following dental appointments.
  • A website usability study.… Continue reading

FCA report_wWe have recently been looking at the issue of vulnerability in research and consultation. The most fundamental question to begin with is why does this matter?

We can’t say it any better than the FCA in their occasional paper which makes the clear point that:

Much consumer protection legislation is underpinned by the notion of the average or typical consumer… However, consumers in vulnerable circumstances may be significantly less able to represent their own interests, and more likely to suffer harm than the average consumer. Regulators and firms need to ensure these consumers are adequately protected.”… Continue reading

What images come into your head when you think of a vulnerable person or customer?  Across the public sector and regulated industries such as energy, finance and water, increasingly dynamic, multi-dimensional definitions of vulnerability are being developed to help ensure services are fair and accessible to all. The initial image we may have of someone who is frail elderly or severely disabled no longer covers it.

Factoring in circumstance as much as physical or mental characteristics is one of the recent shifts in understanding vulnerability. Circumstances such as sudden illness, bereavement, job loss or divorce, mean that vulnerability is… Continue reading

Vunerable_tips_wHere at Community Research, we have lots of experience of helping our clients work with vulnerable audiences, see our Nottingham City Clinical Commissioning Group case study. We thought we’d share some of our tips for a successful project that enables you to include the voices of those that aren’t easily reached:

  1. Don’t be too narrow: As outlined in our article on defining vulnerability – don’t decide too restrictively who is vulnerable and who isn’t – most of us will be vulnerable at some point in our lives.

2. Engage with gatekeepers: There are a plethora of third… Continue reading

Notting CCG_wA new strategy for the four years to 2020 was developed as part of Nottingham City Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG) planning for commissioning health services. The strategy had three main ambitions:

  • Increase the number of years that people in Nottingham live in good health.
  • Reduce the health inequalities experienced between different areas in the city.
  • Empower people in Nottingham to improve their own health.

To support the development of the new strategy, a programme of engagement was conducted with stakeholders, partners, patients and the public to ensure the priorities agreed were appropriate and reflective of the health needs in Nottingham… Continue reading

Technology companies and other business to business companies, particularly in the USA, have a fairly long established tradition of developing and running Customer Advisory Councils or Customer Advisory Boards. According to the Wikipedia description these comprise “a group of existing customers, convened on a regular basis to advise company management on industry trends, business priorities, and strategic direction.”  They “typically consist of 10 to 15 customers, selected to represent a cross section of the customer base.”

This approach doesn’t seem to be as widely used here in the UK, but we are increasingly seeing interest in similar kinds of… Continue reading