The Value of a Local Coordinator
20 October 2022
We are working with our partner, the Market Development Association (MDA) to better understand the persistent challenges around health, education and employment. Engagement with our partner community in the Market area of South Belfast highlighted that health and education were among some of the important issues that the community were most concerned about and would like to see improved.
Our ‘Growing up in the Market’ (GUiM) study aims to capture the lived experience of children, young people and their family over three years. The study has a significant focus on children and young people’s journey through education at key transition points, through to the labour market. It also captures other important aspects of people’s lives including health and wellbeing.
Beginning a qualitative study with a local community requires a huge commitment to building relationships with local agencies and residents to successfully achieve the sample required for the study to take place. When a qualitative study is also longitudinal, this makes it even more challenging because you are asking people to commit to taking part over a longer time scale. Even though we had the full support of the MDA, the time and effort required to achieve the necessary sample cannot be underestimated.
There is strong agreement in the literature on place-based approaches about the importance of engaging a local coordinator who can use their local knowledge and communication networks to increase awareness and engagement and maintain momentum in the initiative.
We successfully acquired funding from the Department for Communities for a local coordinator post and an administrative post. This has been instrumental in progressing the GUiM recruitment and maintaining local endorsement. Collaboration with other partners, such as government departments, can be effective in supporting each other’s efforts towards a shared goal like addressing disadvantage.
It is necessary to be realistic about the degree to which people can and are able to commit time and effort to supporting research goals. Even where everyone is dedicated to working together, there are many structural barriers to this. For example, partners will have additional targets and regulatory agendas to follow. Moving forward, QCAP will continue to engage with the Department for Communities, and other government departments, to help support shared aims and objectives.
Áine Brady is the QCAP Local Coordinator and adds ‘For qualitative local studies to be successful it’s imperative that strong local connections are made and that time is spent on forming positive and respectful relationships with the community. Having a local coordinator post within QCAP allows the time and resource for this work to take place which in turn enriches the whole project.’