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Ethics – Contact

users in focus groups

How do you recruit people for your project?

Recruiting people of diverse backgrounds and abilities for design projects can be time-consuming but their involvement is central to an inclusive design process and brings enormous rewards creatively and professionally.

The question is how to go about finding potential participants where specialist agencies are not being used.  There are some key ground rules to create a positive experience for participants and build long-term trust, so that word-of-mouth introductions widen the number of people willing to engage with your projects.

Step One

Write a concise project description for circulation to potential participants that lists:

  • Description of your organisation
  • Project  aims, scope and time frame
  • Date, time and place of the event with access information
  • Conditions of participation and what participants will be expected to do
  • If there is to be any recording, monitoring or observation
  • Expenses and any incentives offered (see section on Consent)
  • Full contact details of the organiser
  • Mention of whether organiser is CRB checked if relevant (see Consent)

And remember to give sufficient notice – two weeks is rarely enough.

Step Two

Using this information, individuals or groups can be recruited:

  • Through direct contact with existing interest groups, charities or voluntary organisations related to the topic under study
  • Via websites with interactive blogs or message boards, for example, to study disability, contact BBC Ouch or Enabled by Design
  • Day centres, care homes and schools (CRB check necessary)

Step Three

Once initial contact is established and interest expressed, this should be followed by a call (or text or SMS message for deaf participants) where the terms and conditions are fully explained (see Conduct) and, where possible, a digital copy of the consent letter forwarded so that participants have time to study the conditions and withdraw from the project if they wish to.

Calls for face-to-face in-home interviews and calls to household landline telephone numbers or mobile telephone numbers (including text messages) should not be made before 9 am Monday to Saturday, 10 am Sunday or after 9 pm any day, unless by appointment.

Where the research will take place at your organization, the access requirements of the participant should be checked (i.e. How will they travel? Do they require a disabled parking space or accessible toilet?  Will they need to be met at a station or bus stop? What are their dietary requirements if refreshments are offered?)

If the research takes place at the participant’s home or place of work, the scope and timing of the visit should be discussed in advance and should be on the participant’s terms, not yours. (For example, they may wish for a family member to be present, prefer a female interviewer or not wish to be photographed).

For advice on what to during the visit, see Conduct

Visits should be followed up by a call, email or letter thanking people for their participation.