Types of Consumer and Community Involvement

We have developed a range of strategies to assist researchers with involving consumer and community members in their research. These strategies can be adapted to suit the needs of your research project where necessary.

A one-off activity where a consumer or community member provides feedback on a document or research idea. Involving consumers or community members in reviewing documents or ideas can assist in ensuring they're easily understood. It can also be very helpful in detecting jargon and acronyms.

Documents commonly reviewed by consumer and community members include:

  • Information sheets: written information explaining the research project given to research participants.
  • Consent forms: a form signed by a research participant confirming agreement to take part in a project. It also provides evidence the participant fully understands what they're being asked to do in the research project.
  • Plain language summaries: summaries of the research written in a way which is easily understood by everyone (not using scientific or specialised language - lay terms). The summaries can be used to let the community know about the research or while applying for funding.
  • Grant or funding applications: reviewers can be involved in assessing grant or funding applications.
  • Pamphlets and brochures
  • Reports and documents about the dissemination of research results
  • Presentations to community groups

Research Buddies are consumers or community members who can help to provide the link between the researcher and the community. Some researchers have little or no contact with people affected by the condition they're studying. It's a less formal partnership; Research Buddies and researchers (or research teams) may meet two to three times per year to discuss various aspects of the research, from aims to results and new ideas.

Research Buddies may also help to raise awareness of the research and help with the sharing or translation of findings. Research Buddies can be particularly helpful when the researchers are using linked data or working in a laboratory and don't have direct contact with consumers or community members.

Reference Groups are made up of 4 or more consumers or community members who provide advice on a particular project. Reference Groups can be used either at a particular stage of a project or throughout the course of a project. Reference Groups meet a number of times and may provide advice when planning the research, give feedback on research documents and assist in getting the research results out to the wider community.

Advisory Groups are made up of 8 to 12 consumers or community members who provide input across a program of work (such as a research program or a Department's body of work), rather than one particular project.

Having consumers and community members involved at a strategic level can often bring a new and different perspective. This could involve having one or more consumer or community members on a Steering Group or Advisory Council:

  • Steering Group: Groups of stakeholders who steer and influence the research project, program or organisation. They often have more involvement than a Reference Group or Advisory Group, which only provide advice. A Steering Group can consist of stakeholders such as researchers, clinicians or members of non-government organisations.
  • Advisory Councils: Provide advice at a strategic level across the organisation. Council membership usually includes consumers, community members, researchers and management.

Consumer and Community Researchers are people who have been trained to work with researchers to conduct all or part of the research project. They might be involved in developing the methodology of the study, interviewing other consumers or community members, co-facilitating focus groups or analysing results of interviews or questionnaires. This method can be very useful for working with specific groups such as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples or Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CaLD) communities.

A Community Conversation is an event using an abridged version of the World Cafe method, known internationally as an easy-to-use format for creating open conversations around questions of importance to a specific topic. To effectively capture what is discussed, around 6 to 10 community members are grouped at tables with a Facilitator who directs the conversation.

Specific questions relevant to the subject matter are discussed in an open and friendly environment. All comments are captured by a Scribe and used to develop a report from the Conversation.

A Research Priority Mapping Workshop is designed to identify consumers and community members and other stakeholder's priorities for research in a particular area. The process we use is based on a number of methods and involves surveying people and holding a consensus workshop to decide on the research priorities.