Explaining the purpose of your research in five minutes to a complete stranger sounds easy …. until you try it. Ours is an easy project to understand, after all EVERYONE knows what we mean when we talk about ‘self funded care’ and ‘personal care’. EVERYONE knows what we mean when we talk about ‘care ethics’ and ‘co-production’ too. If the man on the Clapham Omnibus (or in our case, the person on the X1 Bus from Solihull Town Centre) was told all this, they’d be bound to understand and want to take part.
At our first Project Team meeting of the year, we started to prepare for recruiting research participants. Referring to our earlier work on mapping Solihull, we identified places co-researchers could visit and people they could speak to in order to raise awareness about our research and recruit people to participate.
Co-researchers then worked in pairs to test both their own skills at explaining our research in words that everyone can understand, and to work out what additional things we need to do to make this run smoothly. Most of these were practical arrangements, like producing a set of bullet points to ensure that we are all covering important points such as assuring confidentiality. We also discussed the importance of taking additional measures to ensure that if someone does phone us to say they are interested in our research, we get back to them straight away.
Co-researchers bring an important additional dimension to our work. As well as contributing valuable time and skills, co-researchers give us a closer understanding of the experiences of older people who need care because they have personal experience themselves. Also, co-researchers can bring better communication skills, often because they live in the local area, know its history and have more in common with the person being interviewed. However, co-researchers and academic researchers face the same challenging ethical issues. For example, although we want to recruit people to participate in our research, we have to be honest with them that they may receive little or no tangible benefits from giving us their time and sharing their stories. We are all interested in this research because we want to see the lives of people who pay for their care improve, but as researchers it is not our role to advise people what to do and we need to be clear about what we must and must not do if we meet someone in a state of distress or danger. Academic researchers receive in-depth training and support before carrying out field work, and we must ensure that co-researchers are equally prepared. Our meeting today showed us that, by working together and supporting each other, we can do this.