In 2019, Staffordshire University led the Get Talking Hardship project in partnership with Voices and the Hardship Commission. 43 community researchers were involved in Get Talking Hardship and in 2020 we revisited some of them to find out what had made them interested in the project, what motivated them to stay involved and what got in the way of their continued engagement.
Civic fellow and community researcher Chloe Harris first heard of the Get Talking Hardship project through her work and connections at Advocacy charity Asist.
It was there that Chloe, who lives will Cerebral Palsy and relies on the support of a personal assistant, was initially approached about getting involved as part of a group from Asist.
Seeing it as an opportunity which closely fitted with the advocacy work she was already involved with, the chance to talk to more people in more communities in Stoke-on-Trent about issues that mattered to her made Chloe want to find out more.
“Before I started with Keep Talking, I was talking to various people and organisations about how they felt life could be made easier for them. Because they’re vulnerable in some way. And then feeding that back to relevant organisations around them or talk[ing] to them, you know, to make sure their voice is heard, and they’ve got everything that they require to live a full and successful life.”
Attending the project’s early ‘world café’ meetings and undertaking the training provided by the Staffordshire University led project, Chloe eventually gained her qualification.
It was following her training that Chloe began to travel out to meet with individuals and the communities they lived in, working through questionnaires to find out more detail about the issues affecting them and their communities.
It was from these interactions and meetings with local communities that Chloe, along with her fellow community researchers, began to collate and disseminate the findings and host feedback events which not only helped those communities the Get Talking Project was working with but also Chloe herself in seeing the benefit of the project.
“The information I found out and how much I realised the City needed to change was quite eye opening, and although it’s hard to see, I think it’s really positive. I think the more people who know about that situation, the better it’s going to be, to get it changed. So, I think it was really positive that we were able to go out and speak to people and listen to them and find out what they were wanting.”
An integral member of the subsequent Keep Talking Project Chole aims to keep on working toward making the project a success so that it can achieve its objective of helping change the lives of communities affected by issues such as poverty. It is this which motivates her to continue to keep talking to people.
“After the research we did last year, I realised how difficult things were for people and what needed changing within the city. I really felt that I could not just do a load of research and leave the report on the shelf. I wanted to be able to take action. What motivated me was them and the situations they were in.”
Get Talking Hardship Community Researcher Chris Broad got involved in the Staffordshire University led project as he felt there was not enough being done to help the issue of hardship affecting people in Stoke-on-Trent.
“I got involved through the Starfish hub. I think it, hardship, is a bad problem in Stoke-on-Trent with not enough being done to address the issue. I was just interested to see if I could help.“
Attending meetings in the early days of the Get Talking Hardship project, Chris and others attending, were encouraged to share their ideas on what they felt could be done.
For Chris it was the thought of a group of likeminded people coming together, getting out in the community, and speaking to those affected by issues such as poverty, which made him feel the project was a good idea.
Unfortunately, due to ill health at the time Chris was unable to attend some of the later meetings but believes that the Get Talking Hardship project is greatly needed to tackle issues such as poverty within the community.
“I just think it’s a good, positive thing you know? There’s clearly not enough being done to tackle poverty in the region, there’s so many homeless people now, it’s unreal.”
Despite not being as involved as he would have liked throughout the project and research, Chris never felt left out when it came to the university and fellow researchers keeping in touch.
“They kept in touch, they used to send me emails and updates and things. The project lead Nicola Gratton had a word me at the university, to see how I was doing. Which I thought was really good of her.”
For those thinking of getting involved in with Staffordshire University as a community researcher Chris has few short words which come from his own experience of Get Talking Hardship and working with local communities in Stoke-on-Trent to tackle poverty.
“Go for it. It’s got a lot of opportunities, it’s interesting, it’s a good experience. Yeah, give it a try and you can help somebody else in the process.”
Community researcher, Arathi Bhaskar, became involved in the Keep Talking project after answering a call for volunteers in Autumn 2019.
Earning her Master’s degree following a dissertation on research into the impact of domestic violence, Arathi was first introduced to the project by a fellow community researcher who had begun working on the Get Talking Hardship project a year earlier.
“I knew a little bit about the project from Lotika who part of it in 2019 and last year as well, but I couldn’t join then as I was a full-time student.”
New to the Keep Talking project, Arathi did however bring a wealth of knowledge and experience from her studies and previous experience as a volunteer with Staffordshire Women’s Aid to her role as a Keep Talking community researcher, an experience which she feels she can now support others wishing to get involved.
“If somebody were interested, I would tell them that they should not worry about the technical aspects and that there’s a lot of support. I read the report from last year from those who had worked on it and could actually see… what the project is all about.”
With her background in the similar social research which underpins the Keep Talking project, Arathi believes it is important to have the community involved in research, especially in a place like Stoke-on-Trent, where she sees hardship as being quite a bit of an issue.
“Helping the community near to me was my motivation to try and help the project as a Community Researcher.”
With almost half a year under her belt, her involvement in the Keep Talking project has been invaluable for both Staffordshire University who run the project, but also Arathi herself. It has been an experience which, although based around her interest in research, also challenged Arathi to step outside of her comfort zone.
“The Keep Talking Project has been invaluable in showing what a community can achieve when working together, especially during the pandemic. The dedication and creativity of the researchers has been inspiring. The team of Nic, Teri and Ryan have always been supportive and engaging.”