When you’re investing money, time and effort to run qualitative research, it’s a mistake not to pay attention to recruiting and involving the right mix of people into the research. After all, the participants are the source of all information and response to your questions. It’s not worth leaving it to chance.
Research and co-creation is always about ‘people’ so there’s always an element of chance of who will walk through the door for a workshop or an interview, but there are systematic ways to improve your chance of getting the ‘right mix’ of people, thereby giving you the best chance of getting valuable insight.
If you haven’t given much thought to recruitment, then here is a mini-checklist to help you get the right people for your next piece of engagement or market research.
Be clear about role of your participants
Being clear about the brief and what role the participants will play will help you recruit the ‘right’ people. If you are looking to innovate you may want to ensure you don’t include too many current service users. Whereas, refining services or products will require people who are already involved.
Put in place a recruitment screener
A detailed recruitment screener can help ensure you get a good mix of people. Not only a mix along socio-demographic lines, but also getting a mix of people according to their relationship to your challenge (for example their experience of the service, health diagnosis or literacy levels).
Include naïve participants
It’s good to recruit people without too much prior knowledge – or an axe to grind – so beware of the ‘usual suspects’. Recruiting from service user groups can be a short cut but beware as it could be counter-productive as they may be too experienced with a predetermined set of beliefs.
An appropriate incentive demonstrates that you value participants’ time and ideas. Cash is clean and is often king. Offering a voucher already make assumptions about people’s preferences and if often less attractive.
If you’re going to the trouble of running primary research make sure you get the right people through the door. The additional effort and time always gives a handsome payback.
Understanding people’s need around mental health services
We’ve worked with several boroughs to help them gain insight into attitudes towards common mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression. These included South East Essex and the three east London boroughs of Barking & Dagenham, Redbridge and Havering.
In these projects the principle objective was to understand why people, who could benefit from talking therapies, weren’t using existing services available on the NHS.
The challenge was how to find people with depression, anxiety and other common mental health problems from the local population, and who were not already using the services.
To get the right people into the room our recruiters employed GAD 7 and PHQ 4 screening questionnaires to assess potential participants’ propensity towards depression and anxiety. This helped us find the people we needed; those not already engaged with services, but who could benefit from them either now or in future.
To make sure they represented a cross section of society we included a set of filters to the screener to reflect the local population demographics. Our recruiters spent most of their time in general public settings; shopping centres, libraries, high streets and railways stations during the evening commute.
It was an approach that worked as Partners’ director Gary Nolan explained: “The success of the sessions was illustrated by the personal engagement shown by the participants, leading to sometimes deeply private experiences being revealed. It was from these personal insights and the personal barriers that were generally shared by the group that we were able to make practical recommendations for change”
“It became clear there was a genuine unmet need among participants. Alongside this was a lack of awareness of what was available on the NHS, compounded by a shared deep-rooted fear of being medicalised.”
The research played a pivotal role in the brand and communication strategy of the providers. Based on this evidence they repositioned their services with a less clinical, and more empathetic tone. In a sense, it became about ‘normalising’ what are ‘normal’, widely-felt aspects of human experience – depression, anxiety, bereavement and work stress – at the same time as making help easy to access and use without fear of stigma.