Recruitment for meaningful engagement 

Recruitment of participants can take time but careful consideration of the following points will help to make certain that participants are truly representative of the service users or population. 

Membership will be driven by the aims 

Consideration should be given to the aims of the PPI activity in order to identify suitable potential participants. Ensure that participants are approached and selected on the basis of their interest in, and potential contribution to, the process, and not for reasons such as convenience. 

Understand motivations 

Understanding the reasons why people become involved will aid recruitment. Many participants are altruistic and have a wish to ‘help’ or to ‘give something back’. Others might be driven by wanting to contribute and make a positive difference. Some people might be reluctant to get involved because they may believe that they have little to contribute. It might be possible to overcome this by giving examples of how others have contributed in the past. 

Develop a recruitment strategy 

The recruitment strategy must be planned early on in the process. Take care that sufficient time is set aside for recruitment as this stage could take longer than expected. 

Careful consideration must be given to how participants will be recruited. For example, if people with dementia are recruited from memory clinics or NHS Trusts then they might have been going through diagnosis or be unwell. It might be more appropriate to recruit people through an organisation such as the Alzheimer’s Society.

Established groups may be approached and there are benefits associated with this. For example, participants may already know each other, there may be established support mechanisms and it might save time. There may also be disadvantages associated with recruiting from such groups and these require consideration. These include ‘burnout’ from being continually approached to participate, or ‘professionalisation’. Professionalisation of PPI can occur if groups are continually called upon to participate, or if an organisation has a database of people to approach for PPI and the same people become involved time and again. 

Ensure membership is representative 

Make sure that membership is diverse and representative of service users or the population. For this to happen, recruitment and participation must be sensitive to individual needs. For example, efforts must be made to ensure that those with mobility problems, those whose first language is not English, and people with hearing/sight difficulties or other communication difficulties are not excluded. 

Consider publicising recruitment in order to access a wide range of participants. One approach is to advertise in locations which are frequented by the types of participants required. Examples might include GP surgeries or community centres. 

Engage with the wider community, not just with groups who traditionally get involved and consider issues associated with accessing ‘hard to reach’ groups. For example, consider providing transport to venues, or ‘outreach’ approaches such as home visits or telephone discussions.