We were recently joined by Will Slocombe of the University of Liverpool and Sara Elias of Public Health Wales for a Shared Learning event for PSBs to learn about FLiNT and the power of character-led storytelling. Here’s five things we learned from the session:
1. Building trust and relationships within the community is key to effective engagement.
Connecting with existing community groups, holding multiple events at different times and in existing safe spaces that the community already uses is essential to creating the right environment for involvement.
2. Diverse perspectives and opinions should be valued and incorporated in decision-making.
There’s no right or wrong answers. When developing scenario-based techniques such as ‘postcards to/from the future’ and character-led storytelling, all you need is your imagination in order to gain valuable insight from lived experience and knowledge coming from a broad range of people, backgrounds and methods. These techniques can help decision-makers understand the viewpoints of different communities about the futures that are coming. However, it’s not about aiming for a representative example from each ‘group’ but rather drawing out individual voices.
3. Communication and transparency are crucial for maintaining community involvement and accountability.
In order to encourage participants to speak candidly, try not to digitally record stories, conversations, or workshops but in each case collect an (anonymised) story or set of story notes from each participant and consider them for analysis and illustration. This process gives people a sense of empowerment and safety to speak openly.
4. Creative and inclusive engagement methods can increase participation and buy-in from community members.
The use of storytelling can help to mitigate against survey fatigue in affected communities as well as to garner a rich source of qualitative data. Avoid confusing language and aim to use a visual note-taker so that participants can see their words and ideas come to life. Creative futuring methods such as ‘postcards to/from the future’ and character-led storytelling help get a deeper understanding of what’s going on in communities. By creating more engaging involvement opportunities, participants are more likely to want to be involved in future projects and pass on the strategies they have already developed as part of a project.
5. Regular follow-up and feedback can help sustain community involvement and drive continuous improvement.
Give something back by leaving something useful behind. Formal written reports are unlikely to be the most useful method of sharing the outcomes. Share good practice, upskill and give people the tools to do this for themselves and run groups with their own communities. FLiNT distilled all the stories into an illustrative story book with the characters that the people involved created. This not only creates something tangible for the people involved but also creates a ‘character bank’ that can be used to prompt future discussion on thinking/talking about the future, making policy- and decision-makers ask “What it might feel like for this person?”.
Public Health Wales and the Office of the Future Generations Commissioner, in partnership, commissioned the FLiNT project, which aimed to use innovative character-led storytelling methods to involve under-represented communities in meaningful discussions on long-term thinking about climate change and inequality in Wales. The project aimed to support public sector organisations to adopt long-term thinking and inspire their communities to do the same.
This event was run as part of Project Dewi. The Shared Learning Network for PSBs is designed to encourage, and support, people associated Public Services Boards in Wales to share good practice and assist with each other’s challenges. Please get in touch if you would like to be involved.