Using animations in deliberative research

We are often required to explain complex issues to research participants in deliberative (informed dialogue) research. Over the years we have used a number of ways to do this and we have successfully helped members of the public to understand the complexities of a wide range of subjects – from the challenges of global food sustainability; to the difficulties facing NHS bodies in redesigning services for a changing population.

We always tackle this challenge by using a variety of ways to provide information, in order to keep participants interested and engaged. Information may be provided through presentations, briefings, videos, quiz sessions and expert speakers to ensure participants fully engage with the information provided to inform discussions and also so that we cater to different learning styles.

Complex information needs to be broken down into bite size pieces and made fully digestible for participants. Visual information often works better than the verbal or written word.

In a number of recent projects we have developed bespoke whiteboard animations. The availability of off the shelf software such as Videoscribe, which allows you easily to create animations, makes the process relatively easy.

Developing a bespoke animation to explain issues to participants has several advantages over other methods such as PowerPoint presentations or factual handouts:

  1. It ensures absolute consistency if you are running a series of deliberative events.

  2. It is enjoyable for participants.

  3. It is visually appealing and the information therefore sinks in better.

The best way to show you what possible is to share this short example (not one of ours) which explains the benefits at the same time as showing what such animations look like. At Community Research, we are increasingly using this technique as part of our deliberative research tool set and we’re finding it really works. If you’d like to know more, just ask.

Alan Whitlock