The debate about standards for public involvement in research is an important one.
As a community we are growing in number by the day. So is the range of activities that we are involved in. And the number of organisations we are part of.
The resulting variety is rich and exciting. There are those of us who wallow in this messiness and wish it were messier. Others find it deeply frightening. They want public involvement to look and sound the same wherever it exists.
I respect these opposing views and enjoy being in the company of the proponents of either. It is my experience that the greatest release of energy in public involvement can occur when and where they meet in the middle. And that this energy is what leads to change: what is a bridge other than the coming together of structure and discipline and creativity?
My personal view is that public involvement is a passion and an endeavour that is human and imperfect. We set ourselves up for failure by wishing to cast things in stone. Are we willing to live with the consequences were it possible? A regulator? Some form of policing? A Chief Inspector of Public Involvement and Truth making sure that recalcitrant colleagues COPIT whatever their misdemeanour.
For me, the challenge is about finding the best ways to empower people in public involvement, to enable them to set expectations with those they work with. It starts with a set of values and principles that can act as our guide.
This is the message I take from INVOLVE’s excellent work to review what is current out there in terms of standards for public involvement, the recurring themes as well as differences between them. You can read the results in summary and slightly longer form on their website here. Importantly, INVOLVE have also published a set of values and summary principles (see below) and are asking for people’s views on them and their experiences of applying them. The next stage will be to think about developing a framework for public involvement.
If you click on the chart below, it will also take you to the INVOLVE pages about this.
This is what I said at the INVOLVE conference in 2012 about values:
Well, of course, the answer to this dilemma as to the many others we face in public involvement is that we must turn to our values to guide us. I am indebted to a good colleague who sent me a publication by Community Links which summed up the importance of values as follows:
- Values are the beginning – they are what inspire us
- Values are the means – they are what we do and how we do it
- Values are the end – they are what we strive to achieve
And the fact is that we must return to them time and time again, be honest with ourselves when we have failed to uphold them as well as applaud ourselves when we have……………..given our growth and the external pressures we face – the time seems right to invite you to help is crystallise a set of values that will guide us in the future. So, following this conference, as part of a survey, we will be asking you to help us identify what you think these values should be. I would hope that both the process and the outcome will be unifying.
INVOLVE’s values speak to me. What about you?
Have a good weekend.