Abstract: This article reflects on the involvement of service users and other community members in a research project that investigated drug problems in three Dublin communities and developed a set of community indicators of drug use. An approach based on community participative research (CPR) was used, whereby community members were employed as co-researchers and were involved at many stages of the research.
The authors reflect on their overall approach and how well it met with expectations of user-led research. They conclude that user-controlled research always requires some level of researcher involvement to provide technical expertise and ensure the robustness of the methods used, and importantly to obtain funding. Ultimate control often rests with the funder, as funders often set the topic or place requirements on reporting so they retain control over the findings. Researchers therefore don’t always have complete control themselves.
The researchers in this study were responsible for the overall management of the project, which they did at the request of community partners to enable those people to be involved. They also highlighted that service users can often make valuable contributions to research without becoming researchers themselves. Therefore, the overall conclusion was that, in reality, CPR more often takes the form of collaboration, but that this is still valued and acceptable to all research partners.
The community research partners included professionals working in local drug services as well as direct service users. The service users brought different insights, experiences and skills to the project. They helped run focus groups and contributed to the analysis of findings. They made a difference by:
• Contacting and engaging participants
• Finding appropriate venues and choosing the best times for meetings
• Adding value to the analysis of data for example by identifying a wider range of drugs being used in their community than were reported in drug-use data
• Identifying gaps in the researchers’ interpretation of the data
• Using local knowledge and contacts to access data that the researchers would not have otherwise have found.
However, given the sensitive nature of the topic and people’s wish to remain anonymous, the involvement of service users alone was not enough to encourage some community members to take part. Therefore, a number of participants were invited to take part in one-to-one interviews rather than focus groups, to help overcome these concerns.
The findings from the project have been considered by government agencies while developing new action plans, and a meeting has been held with interested stakeholders to discuss how the development of the community indicators can be progressed.
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Categories: public health Designing research Undertaking research Analysing and interpreting Writing up and disseminating impact on research impact on researchers impact on implementation and change impact of public involvement reflecting on public involvement in research journal article Recruitment Implementation and change
Date Entered: 2015/09/29
Date Edited: 2015/10/14