Building trust with the community is fundamental to the process of co-production. Try to understand why the community does not want you to be a part of this process. Is there a way to build trust and convince them of your intentions over time? Tracking changes in perceptions of trust is an integral part of evaluating your engagement.
Think of ways in which the community is already engaging in creative activities. Can you join them? Is there a way to link up with other organisations to pool resources and capacity? Maybe others are already engaged with a particular community and you could get involved too? Perhaps you can apply for joint funding to develop and sustain your engagement? Be creative and also critical – it’s important to be vocal about the support you need to work in this way.
How you engage should be negotiated with the community. Community members should feel that they are being listened to and there is a shared understanding. Some may lean towards the arts (singing, dancing, theatre, music or other). Others may want to be outdoors in greenspaces or in the kitchen. As long as it’s feasible and ethical, anything may be possible!
The idea is to collect data from community members in the way that feels most appropriate to them. They should have a chance to voice how and why they think the method they’re proposing is more appropriate than others. For example, literacy may be an issue so visual methods more fitting. You should also negotiate how data will be shared. Are there any ethical issues. Is the community happy to sign informed consent sheets?
By now you’ll have worked through the process; identified what indicators are important to a community and what they mean to community members; determined how best to collect data to ‘evidence’ changes in health and wellbeing as engagements progress; identified outcomes aligned with relevant policies; and continued to engage and collect data over a specified (realistic) period of time. But maybe, according to community members, nothing’s changed for them. Reflect on the reasons for this. You should have established strong relationships with community members by this stage so gathering honest responses will help to further understand barriers and potential ways for overcoming them.
Listen, acknowledge feelings, respond empathetically and encourage support. If you accept people’s response, they will continue to tell you how they are feeling. This will help you respond to some of their concerns.
Your role is to understand what outcomes are important to community members. What is it that they want to achieve? What support do they say they will need to achieve these outcomes?