Reflections on #CareConvos: Engaged Research

Our second Twitter #CareConvos (September 2019) was about engagement in research and how researchers might do this better. There were many cracking comments (“Research into flavour of crisps easy. But giving yourself […] for research, harder to do”) as well as some very profound contributions. As ever I’m so grateful to everyone who took the time to come along and share their ideas.

Here’s our summary of the chat and recommendations for more engaged research:

  • Be relevant: understand the concerns of people on the ground, including care experienced children or adults, carers and professionals.
  • Be kind: build genuine and respectful relationships with people, and value their time, contributions and expertise
  • Be specific: about the aims of the research and what engagement activities will involve
  • Be explicit: about incentives, rewards and support provided
  • Be clear: communicate the research plainly and tell people what impact the research is having, including beyond the project end. And at every step of the research, write in plain English.
  • Be inclusive: seek out an advisory group of diverse people with lived experience to discuss ideas and guide research questions. This should include a conversation about the dataset and its content
  • Be collaborative: recruit people with experience of care, either as children or professionals, where possible. Their perspective is incalculable and you will build capacity in the field

Here are some of my favourite moments, with thanks to the authors:

“And please, for love of anything you love, speak plainly so everyone can understand.” @Clohesion

“Warmth, kindness, leaning in, truly valuing the participant researchers and showing the mutual #relationships of academics and participant researchers as central to the research. Demonstrate the process is as important as the outcomes e.g. the potential of community building” @Jamie_Crabb

“Agreeing to participate in research is to hope it helps an makes a difference to something close to your heart.” @JacqueMcCartney

None of this will be new to most of us in research, but somehow real participation is very much lacking in our field. We need to commit to doing this better.

Next steps

This #CareConvos really got me thinking about my work and what I can do differently. Most of my research involves analyses of pre-existing data (for example analysing government data), so the landscape for engagement is somewhat different. It is something I’m thinking about (more soon!).

But spurred on by September and October’s #CareConvos, something I have decided to do is to get feedback on my writing from the care community. This means asking at least one person, who could be care experienced, a foster carer or social worker, to read my work before it is published. Those interested might read a draft article for an academic journal, a study summary or my key messages. I will provide a reading guide for those who need it. Anyone who works with me will be acknowledged in the article.

I’m hoping that by integrating the feedback from the care community, my work may be more accessible, I will use more careful language and ultimately I might have greater reach. 

Let us know if you’ve heard of or been involved in any great initiatives to increase research engagement – we’re always keen to hear new ideas!

Get in touch on twitter or via our contact page!

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