Engaging with ‘Hard to Reach’ Groups
By Emma Watkins
This workshop was led by Alain Thomas from Participatory Cymru. The aim of this workshop was to promote public engagement with those ‘hard to reach’ groups by identifying possible barriers in order to find solutions.
This was a very hands-on workshop, in groups the guests were asked pick a ‘hard to reach group’, examples mentioned were visually impaired and welsh speaking. They were then asked to work together within their group to identify all barriers they could perceive and write them on post-its. They were then asked to put all those barriers to engaging with this group into themes to ensure all members of the group had common ownership. Once familiar with all the barriers each group took a number of beans and used them to vote for which barriers they saw as the most important to overcome. This was a means of prioritising the many barriers identified. The technique is known as ‘bean voting’. It was also mentioned that this is a very good method of identifying areas which can be further investigated with focus groups with different stakeholders.
The groups were told to focus on these six factors; Incentives, Support, Going to Where They Are, Timing, The Venue and The Trusted Intermediary, all in order reduce/remove the barrier with the highest score. Where incentives are concerned, some experienced members of the workshop stated that offering refreshments and worthwhile prize draws really do work. Moreover, it was stated that people generally are altruistic at heart and so instilling in those you wish to engage, the help they will be offering, is an incentive in itself. Just as important is the support that you need to offer these groups. Alain explained that you need to think hard about what support they need and how best to offer it, examples given were transport, childcare and interpretation. Then the workshop turned to event methodology, suggesting that the best way to engage these ‘hard to reach’ groups is to identify what they do, where they go and to go there! Alternatively to organise events aimed at them, to increase the chances of their attendance. Also watch out for personal and institutional barriers, such as your own values and beliefs. Then a series of useful tips were given by Alain and guests. Think of when they are available, use a venue which is known to them, do not use unfamiliar territory, think of good transport links and use trusted intermediaries. A study was carried out showing that in Wales none of us are more than 3 – 4 people away from someone else in Wales. Thus, it is useful to use trusted intermediaries to introduce you to your group and it will snow ball from there!