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This is what our customers really think about our approach...

At People Street, we don’t just conduct research—we create lasting connections and foster genuine engagement within the communities we serve. We are asked all the time to describe our process and approach. So instead of us explaining it this time round, we will let our customers tell you!

This week, we had the privilege of collaborating with researchers from different partner organisations who shared their experiences of working with our team. The research interviews were conducted and written up by two Year 10 students on a work experience placement. Their reflections offer invaluable insights into our inclusive approach, so let us know what you think.

A Transformative Experience

Participant 1 described their collaboration with People Street as an "amazing experience" and a "masterclass" in public engagement. For the first time, they witnessed what they termed "advanced public engagement," characterised by genuine enthusiasm and inclusivity. The People Street team's ability to create a space where everyone felt comfortable sharing their stories was particularly enlightening. This approach broke down traditional power dynamics, making every participant feel like an equal partner. The choice of interpreters and the focus on accessibility further underscored the meticulous behind-the-scenes work that went into ensuring effective and meaningful interactions.

Participant 2, new to the Home Office and community research, was struck by People Street's unique, participant-focused approach. They noted that the engagement felt more like a gathering of friends than a formal research session, creating a welcoming and safe environment. This sense of community was pivotal in helping participants open up and share their honest experiences. The way People Street structured the day, moving beyond mere interviews to foster deeper connections, left a lasting impression.

Participant 3 echoed these sentiments, emphasising People Street's vital role in fostering a sense of belonging and trust among participants. By going out into the community and building one-to-one relationships, People Street helped bridge the gap between users and government services. This close interaction not only made participants feel more human but also enabled more effective and culturally sensitive communication.

Key Lessons from Community Research Sessions

A recurring theme across all three researchers' reflections was the importance of treating participants as individuals first. Participant 1 highlighted how the facilitators, especially Shabira, brought warmth and adaptability to the sessions, tailoring their approach to the needs and backgrounds of the focus groups. This adaptability was also evident in the way interpreters adjusted their methods based on the participants' gender and comfort levels.

Participant 2 learned the significance of focusing on participants' well-being to gain deeper insights. The trust established between participants and facilitators was likened to a dance, emphasising the fluid and reciprocal nature of the communication. Despite a slight delay in translation, the overall experience reinforced the necessity of creating a safe and open environment.

Participant 3 noted the impact of cultural sensitivity and inclusivity in research sessions. Witnessing the close-knit community feel and the genuine connections between facilitators and participants underscored the effectiveness of People Street's methods. This experience highlighted the stark contrast with traditional academic research, where such close engagement with the community is rare.

Unique Approaches and Their Effectiveness

All three researchers agreed that People Street's community development approach sets it apart from other research agencies. Participant 1 appreciated the hands-on, grassroots engagement, which involved going into the community and “breaking bread” with participants. This approach not only built trust but also made participants feel like integral parts of the research process.

Participant 2 highlighted the continuous relationship People Street maintains with the community, even outside of specific research projects. This ongoing engagement fosters a sense of trust and familiarity, crucial for honest and open communication.

Participant 3 was particularly impressed by People Street's ability to quickly adapt to changing circumstances and provide a safe space for participants. This flexibility, coupled with the provision of food and other comforts, helped build a supportive and welcoming environment.

Areas for Improvement

While the feedback was overwhelmingly positive, some areas for improvement were noted. Participant 1 suggested that People Street could share their effective methods with other community development agencies, although they acknowledged the challenge due to the time and commitment required to adopt People Street's ethos fully.

Participant 2 pointed out the need for briefing for new researchers joining in this type of approach to avoid being overwhelmed. Writing guidance on conducting community research could also be beneficial.

Participant 3 emphasised that the onus for improvement lies more with the government and public organisations, which need to learn from People Street's approach to create safer and more welcoming environments for research.

Final Reflections

The most valuable takeaway from these collaborations was the realisation that no researcher can master all trades. Participant 1 noted that senior researchers are only part of the puzzle, and community development agencies like People Street play a crucial role in the research ecosystem. Participant 2 emphasised the importance of appreciating the nuances and differences among participants, while Participant 3 committed to always placing the participants' needs at the heart of their research.

By fostering trust, inclusivity, and genuine engagement, People Street has demonstrated that placing the community at the centre of research not only enriches the data collected but also makes a tangible difference in the lives of participants. As we continue to refine our methods and share our insights, we remain dedicated to building stronger, more connected communities through meaningful research and engagement.

Thank you to the researchers for giving up their time and sharing their insights so generously. And a huge thank you to the 2 students for conducting their first research conversations, and doing so with warmth and curiosity.

We would love to hear from you and invite you to join us in our journey to make research more human, inclusive, and impactful. Together, we can create a future where every voice is heard and valued.

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