This project couldn’t have been more prescient as we, like many other people following the news, were becoming aware of how disparately the pandemic was impacting certain communities and the strain within the provision of public services for those on the margins of society. Our client wanted to gain a deeper understanding of the barriers faced by people who identified as belonging to these communities.
Overall the project required over 200 participants from backgrounds as diverse as Traveller communities, members of the LGB community, people with life-limiting conditions, victims of sex trafficking and transgender men and women.
While the scale and the scope of this project was daunting, the online methodology undoubtedly enabled us to cast a far wider net than any pre-Covid, geo-specific, research might. However, it also presented challenges too. While our primary tools – our opt-in database and social media presence could still be used; their efficacy was limited with low representation within these demographics. Additionally many mainstream charities were under increasing strain and could only offer limited assistance.
We overcame this with new approaches – researching extensively, developing contacts, and individualising our screening style. This meant finding grass-roots campaigners and community members to snowball recruitment amongst wary asylum-seekers and trafficking victims, while screening respectfully, via indirect – conversational style – questions, to assure transgender participants and victims of sexual harassment. Elderly and homeless groups were sourced mostly through family members and received IT assistance to ensure their participation, including gathering signatures digitally via Adobe Sign to meet with GDPR and MRS compliance. In addition to compliance, we were keenly aware of our safeguarding responsibilities and created a policy on how to respond to disclosures of harm or trauma from some of the most vulnerable participants.
The end result was a series of online focus groups with much of the preparation done through a combination of online outreach, long telephone discussions and sharing information on the goals of this important initiative. The pandemic, in many ways, presented an opportunity to conduct this project in a way that might not have been envisaged before. Through our perseverance, multi-faceted approach and inspired thinking, the client was able to engage with people who are often stigmatised, marginalised or otherwise underrepresented in market research.