Ask community members how they would prefer to discuss or capture information. Do they want to draw, sing or act instead? Filming? Audio? Other means of data capturing?
What if your own perceptions and potential biases about a community are not aligned with how a community defines itself?
Reflect on how this might impact your work with the community. Reflexivity is crucial. Capturing how your perceptions change during this process is central to evidencing process outcomes as these are related to community members’ experiences of using a service.
You really want to know how communities ‘define’ themselves. Are individuals within the community comfortable with the ‘categorisation’ you have in mind? It may be that you’re putting community members in a ‘box’ that they don’t identify with (for example, BME).
Co-production involves building trust and sustaining relationships. It is crucial to engage on a continuous basis (what is reasonable) and not parachute in to a community to suit organisational objectives. This is important to capture quality of life outcomes (the perceived quality of an community member's daily life). Be transparent about lack of resources and capacity so the community is aware of the challenges you face. Stay engaged in open conversation. Radical honesty all the way!
Part of the process of co-production involves understanding differences and negotiating potential ways forward. Capturing how you negotiate differences is central to process outcomes and change outcomes – it’s related to communities’ experiences of services and will help you understand what improvements community members are seeking.
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?