by Dr Monique Huysamen
On the 29th of January 2019 the ReNEW team participated in an exciting skills workshop in Stellenbosch on participatory and stakeholder engagement in scientific research. This workshop was presented in collaboration with community engagement specialists, the Sustainable Livelihoods Foundation.
ReNEW is committed to engaging with and learning from those who may have a stake in our research – this includes residents of communities living near to our research sites, policy makers, local and national government, public health care practitioners, industry, and other researchers and practitioners. As an interdisciplinary team, we are always looking at ways to make our research, both current and future, more collaborative, participatory and accessible. This workshop provided us with theoretical knowledge and practical skills towards this goal.
Our workshop covered some of the theory and empirical research underpinning both stakeholder engagement and public engagement. We also addressed strategies for insuring that our research has relevance and impact at a policy level.
We engaged in practical arts-based exercises which helped us to reflect upon how we, as researchers, present ourselves and our research to various lay-audiences and stakeholders.
We screened a documentary showing how innovative participatory research approaches have been successfully used in public health research in South Africa.
We shared our own experiences of public engagement, identified our own skills and resources, and discussed both the challenges and possibilities for public engagement for ReNEW.
As a whole, the workshop built upon our existing knowledge and skills around stakeholder engagement. It also provided us with some new skills and approaches for ensuring that our research remains collaborative, ethical, culturally sensitive, and accessible.