Building trust and confidence is the first step to working with seldom heard groups according to expert speakers at PIF’s event on working with so-called ‘hard to reach’ groups.
Common themes emerged from projects including working with Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities in Wales, the unemployed in Leicester, sex workers in Leeds, the homeless in London and trans women across the UK.
Key messages from presentations and the event’s roundtable workshop included:
- Spend time planning your engagement
- Consider outsourcing research, engagement and user testing or work with a voluntary sector partner
- Find out where your audience is and go to them
- Don’t expect to be welcomed with open arms
- Work with community leaders and influencers
- Take time to build trust
- Work out what’s in it for communities, their priorities may be different from your organisation’s assumptions
- Think about activities that will build confidence for participation
- Understand the cultural norms and language of specific groups
- Understand the health needs of a particular group and the barriers to engagement with services
- Involve users in the development of projects, right from the very start, and user test before launch
- Make user testing task-specific to ensure users have been able to understand the task, and that information provided has met its purpose
- Develop peer-support from within the community to help develop and deliver information and support others. If the community is disparate consider online engagement.
- Consider the appropriate method of dissemination for the target group. Working through community groups and community leaders, using online communities, direct messaging, social media and WhatsApp have all proved successful.
- Consider how learning can feed into information work plans for national charities, in terms of imagery and language used in materials and on websites, and how engagement in research and local volunteer groups is promoted.