What to do if things go wrong

In these briefing notes we have provided information to help you think through how best to involve people in your research. However, there will occasionally be times when things go wrong. 

Problems can often be sorted out by informal discussions but if you think that things are going wrong it is best to act quickly. If left unresolved problems can affect other members of a team or organisation. Depending on what the issue is we suggest you consider some of the following:

  • acknowledge that there is a problem
  • listen to any concerns and openly discuss them with those concerned along with any concerns that you might have
  • allow space and time for all involved to reflect. Public involvement in research is a learning process.
  • refer back to any relevant documents that you have developed such as ground rules for meetings, complaints policy, confidentiality agreements
  • set a timescale for agreed change to happen
  • let people know about any actions/changes/decisions
  • ensure support is available if necessary
  • consider using a skilled external facilitator to help with the reflection process.

If you are unable to resolve issues using some of the above strategies or if either you or the member of the public feel a more independent review of the situation is required then a more formal approach should be considered. It is helpful to outline in your planning and preparation the procedure for complaints and resolving differences so that the information is clearly available from the beginning (see briefing note five).

More formal procedures might be:

If you are working with people representing a non-statutory organisation that organisation might have its own process.




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