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3 Reasons Why Your Target Community Doesn't Trust You #DataToDialogues

Trust. It underpins every interaction that we have as human beings. The more you trust someone, the more information you give away. Of course, the reverse is also true. Trust can be instinctive, but it can also be built. Our ability to trust people is unique; based on our various life experiences and traumas. 

For example, I might easily trust my doctor because I have a unique understanding of their training, their sources of information and what exactly they do with the information I give them. However, perhaps someone else that has been subject to many misdiagnoses, invasive investigations and a myriad of ineffective medications may have a different perspective entirely. 

The concept of trust underpins all of your community engagement; particularly with underserved communities who may have generational long-standing, deep-rooted reservations with the health system. 

However, you likely already know this. That's what the #DatatoDialogues series is about. Reading about issues of trust is different to experiencing and hearing first-hand about issues of trust. If you are trying to meaningfully engage with an underserved community, here are 3 barriers that may be getting in the way: 

  1. You're a parachutist  

A lot of the time, health and care can feel like 'us' and 'them'. We are often disconnected from the communities we are trying to help physically, culturally and emotionally. At what point did people stop becoming people, but statistics, facts and figures? Data is an essential pillar of public health; it allows us to unearth and measure health inequalities, but what it lacks are the solutions to solving them. 

That's because the solutions are amongst the people. You have to find ways to regularly engage with the community. By showing up without an agenda; no focus groups, no surveys or health promotion workshops, you are telling the community that you genuinely care. You genuinely want to build solutions for them and with them. And just like that, you start to chip away at some of those barriers to trust. 

At Gwellwn, we spend a lot of time within communities. We create local spaces that are accessible to both residents and their stakeholders to talk about the health issues that matter most to them. By facilitating meaningful dialogue, we've learnt about 'parachuting'; which is where researchers 'parachute' in to collect data in a way most convenient for them, and then leave. 

Could this be how your current methods of engagement are perceived by your target community? 

2. You don't have strong community networks 

Perhaps you have a mailing list of a few community organisations or local charities; don't forget that these organisations only represent a small portion of the community. Engaging with figureheads is great; but there are many other voices waiting to be heard. 

Why not ask your current network if you can attend an upcoming event; it doesn't even have to be health related. Get conversations going, gather contact details if you can and find out what's really happening on the ground for yourself. 

3. They don't understand your language 

We often forget, in practice, that the average literacy level of someone in the UK is comparable to an 8-year old's. Vocabulary that sounds very simple to us, may sound like jargon to others. At Gwellwn, within our community spaces, we've received feedback that even the NHS website can be too difficult to understand at times. 

In some underserved communities, many people speak English as a second language or not at all. You must be creative with how you communicate information, because how can you trust someone you don't understand? This is something we will be exploring in a later part of this series. 

Question: Which barriers to trust have you encountered? How did you overcome them? Comment below!

By Kendra-Jean Nwamadi

Co-Founder, Gwellwn


Gwellwn (Welsh) - “We will get better” 

At Gwellwn, we are bridging the gap between health stakeholders and under-served communities in Wales. We facilitate meaningful engagement with underserved communities to skyrocket the impact of your health and well-being interventions.

If you'd like some help with navigating community engagement, email us at so we can have a chat.

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