The importance of community in user research

The importance of community has never been more apparent than it is now. This is true both in our personal lives but also applies to our working lives in relation to our colleagues and our communities of practice.

Right now, during the pandemic, user researchers are working flat out in fast paced, high risk, high profile, high stake product development. Like many, they are balancing their home and work lives, home and work pressures, worries and concerns for others and themselves whilst doing emotionally demanding work.

What has become increasingly evident is that without our community of practice, things would be even harder.

From the simple things like sharing tips on how to best use research tools and how to access participants in this new world, to being able to quickly know what research is going on, what has gone before, what we don’t know, through to sharing that this is tough. Tough to do, tough to juggle, tough to hear, tough to sustain.

Our community of practice has provided a space over the past few weeks for people to see a smiling face, to laugh, to chat, to vent. We’ve not had tears yet, but we all know that it would be OK if there was.

It has allowed us to rapidly identify gaps and blockers to user research delivery and then rapidly identify and test solutions to meet this need.

It has allowed us to on-board new people, help them to link in and get to know others, supporting them to not feel isolated at a time when we are all isolating.

As a community we are also providing help and support to user researchers that don’t have an established community in their organisation, enabling other user researchers in health and care to do their best work too and linking user research across organisations.

You cannot underestimate the importance of a community of practice at a time like this.

Ours isn’t perfect and it is still evolving, but if you want to read the story of how we got here, it is documented on this post https://medium.com/@rochelle.gold/it-started-with-6-how-we-built-a-user-research-community-of-practice-ab5900f832a8

If you want to join our community we are looking for a user researcher to develop our research ops capability and ensure our community can continue do their best work.

You can find more about it here https://www.atscloud.co.uk/nhsdigital/displayjob.aspx?jobid=1528

Head of User Research @NHS Digital. Views my own.