Dr Peter Lee of University of Birmingham talks about how we communicate the concept of community research, and how this helps with recruiting researchers.
What are the most effective ways to describe community research to local citizens, given that they might not have been involved in any research before, but that they are the key people you need to engage?
USE-IT! is based on the principle of context specific approaches to regeneration and a ‘what works under what circumstances and why’ – this is a realist approach to regeneration as it situates all the various interest parties within the process of regeneration. Using this approach or mind-set we were confident that our broad USE-IT! partnership would help us recruit community researchers or ‘experts in neighbourhoods’ by drawing on this extensive partnership network. However it was clear when we started to recruit community researchers that we needed to have a diverse approach to recruitment and that we also needed to use language that was inclusive. For many people, for example, the idea of research is not for them and especially with a university.
How do you reach and recruit people from the community, including those who might otherwise be disengaged or excluded from such community activities? How did you overcome any barriers to this process?
As the University of Birmingham is not physically located in the USE-IT! area, this also presented some barriers as the community did not have much connection with us. So we produced marketing materials that used hand-drawn representations of the area, identifying recognisable landmarks, and we referred to ‘experts in neighbourhoods’. We also promoted the concept of community partners to draw on community expertise and to introduce the idea of research through training and mentoring in order to support individual research interests. We coordinated through our partner network a series of events to promote greater research training and to reach out to different communities. This strategy helped us overcome some initial barriers to recruitment. To date we have trained more than 80 community researchers in the USE-IT! area.