The Importance of Meaningful Consent

How a community is brought into the mix is critical to a project. It is this point of recruitment that is most closely tied to whether it will be a success or not. Yet, we’re not on the ground. We don’t know the vulnerabilities or the capacity or assets that a community holds. Because of this, Radar can’t be responsible for recruiting participants within a partnership.

That’s why we form partnerships. They help identify individuals. Still, if the onus of that participation and recruitment comes solely from that partner, there’s the risk that you get a ‘bums on seats’ issue. You may have people in the room who have been asked to be there but haven’t themselves actively chosen to participate. Or people who have grabbed the opportunity but not fully understood what they’re being asked to do, or, what the payback is for them.

Critically, not being able to make a meaningful assessment of any of the risks that come from engaging can be detrimental, and in our experience, those risks have been quite broad.

Measuring Risk

There is the risk of overstretch. When people commit to something that requires quite a high level of involvement, there’s the risk of burnout or under-participation. When sharing information from a particular space or device to which others have access, there’s a risk of privacy and data security

At this stage, personal safety is key. The actual act of participation might be triggering or trigger an abuse at some level of harm, or the information that you’re sharing might do the same. There is an issue of control. Particularly that which a parent or individual might have over a young person or someone who is Disabled.

Political stability can also pose a risk. Radar has actively chosen not to work in those spaces, yet political situations change all the time and it could arise in one of the projects we work on.

Again, those early judgements of whether someone is safe to work and engage have to be done in a meaningful way by the participant. They should be assisted by the partner but that initial risk assessment has to be done by them.

Looking at the capacity to engage and being able to tell people a rough estimate of what their time burden might be, along with the practicalities of how they might get involved and at what pace, all has to happen early on. This way a person can make a judgement as to whether it is right or appropriate.

Finding Value

A person needs to actively opt into being part of the Radar network. A referral is lovely, but beyond that, they have to listen to the project’s brief and see the value for them. As such, we need to be telling them quite early on what this value is.

It should have a physical or financial value. What’s the cost of delivering the training? There’s always a cost. Someone’s paying for it so why not make that transparent so that they feel invested in. What might be the social outcomes? This may be something they share as a wishlist or could come from the partner as a kind of advocacy or media agenda.

There needs to be a better entry-level pack for every single person who is invited to participate. This should include an initial risk assessment, a judge of capacity, and a clear message on what the value would be for them. Where it’s done badly, you have people drifting off, often within the first session, let alone at the point of reporting.

A richer entry point has the benefit of keeping people engaged for longer. They see us as a collaborating partner rather than a deliverer of service, or worse, a destructive force.