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Characterising communities

Identify a community partner for your project and understand their needs

Before working with community partners it is important to understand their strengths, needs and aspirations. Community dynamics may be complex, requiring a good understanding of community members, relationships and issues.  

Recruiting participants within the community  

A recruitment strategy might include target groups within the community patch, lists of residents and a sampling approach. Often these parameters are influenced by what works and may be a mix of: engaging local gatekeepers and resident leaders, communication strategies (face to face, posters, email), a snowballing approach or the use of incentives. 

Characterising the household 

A series of recorded research activities (eg semi-structured interview, home visits, site visits, diary analysis) designed to understand the social and technical context and identify points of intervention for the co-design process undertaken by the research team.


The findings from the characterising the household research activities creates a set of qualitative data for use in the co-design process. The data and data collection process should also be evaluated in line with evaluation strategy and pay attention to the evaluation principles.  

This phase also provides the first data on shared values which, when evaluated with all other project data and documentation, can help to establish value persistence.  


This method should be applied with the involvement of community residents in the co-design process and can be used to begin a co-design process as part of a research project.  

The person leading the engagement process is responsible for checking the appropriate ethics guides, engagement best practices and data protection protocols for their organisation, sector and location. 

The person leading the engagement process is responsible for complying with local health & safety regulations, carrying out risk assessments and following lone working practices.  

The key personnel involved in this stage includes team lead and social researcher and/or community engagement officer.