Tuesday 12 December 2023

It's a focus group treadmill

Lend us your views

Within the last month, I have been invited to and attended a few focus groups and research study forums seeking to understand my usage and experience of healthcare and mental health services in the diverse community areas in which I find some belonging.

I guess recently, I have been both forward and willing to offer a perspective because whilst I am affected and impacted by many issues, I am not in a sponsored or activist role, I probably speak for an underrepresented demographic of people who usually keep to themselves and seeking no recognition.

Stuff your vouchers

Now, there is the perverse view of the organisers that we attend because we have been enticed or induced by some sort of incentive. It helps, but if every engagement was for the acquisition of vouchers, that would be unfortunate.

Yesterday, I agreed to attend one such focus group, I arrived on time, only to find that the session had started and there was apparently a restriction to the numbers that could attend. To add insult to injury, I was being offered an alternative engagement for the bounty prize of a voucher.

If the look disdain would could capture for posterity, I think the people in that room could not have been less convinced. You think I came for your voucher that I probably cannot find a place spend before its validity expired. Well, the first part was duly expressed as the latter part was absorbed in my thinking. I came for a focus group I was invited to attend, at the time stipulated, even though the convenor arrived much earlier and decided to start before the scheduled time.

Please, do not waste my time

Anyway, I was not going to waste my time if my time was not being valued and my person respected, as an apology came from many directions until the person coordinating the invitees decided to ask if others could join the focus group. Eventually, I was invited to join the activity that had barely got beyond the introductions and ground rules.

Whilst I commend many who work in the non-profit and community engagement sectors, the availability of people to help and volunteer themselves in activities and other research endeavours should not be taken for granted. I can only wonder if I would again be persuaded to engage with that agency after our first encounter.

It was unfortunate, but where I would not be treated with courtesy and respect is not a place or an environment I want to be. From a cynical perspective, I do wonder how any of these things I have participated in would improve the services we use. I guess it is a wait-and-see thing and then calling them to account further down the line. You can only attend so many focus groups before you begin to wonder whether it is merely for funding acquisition rather than service improvement.

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