Workshop observers

It is not unusual for observers to be invited to, or request to attend final priority-setting workshops.  This can be a great opportunity for key influencers and stakeholders, including funders and researchers, to see the priority setting process in action and gain an insight into the development of the research priorities.  It is the JLA’s experience that observers are often enthused and moved by witnessing the process of patients and clinicians working in partnership, and can become strategically helpful champions of the resulting priorities. In addition, PSPs sometimes allow people running other PSPs to observe the workshop for learning purposes.

Members of staff from organisation(s) on the Steering Group are also likely attend the workshop in a non-participatory capacity, to help run it.  Roles might include registration, event management, photography and troubleshooting.

The JLA recognises the benefits of having observers and staff involved in final workshops.  It also understands that the organisation(s) running the event may want to carry out secondary activities at the workshop to enable effective dissemination, such as media work, social media, reporting and photography.

The JLA suggests that observers are briefed in advance about the nature of the workshop and their role on the day.  Points to keep in mind include:

  • The role of the observer is simply to observe the process. The workshop chair will introduce them at the start of the day to ensure participants know why they are there.
  • Observers are not invited to take part in the discussion and should sit separately from the participants during group discussions (e.g. at the edge of the room, not at the table). Facilitators will allocate specific seats to them.
  • The JLA suggests a maximum of two observers per small discussion group, although for very small groups or rooms, this may be deemed too many. It is important that participants do not feel uncomfortable or on display.
  • Both facilitators and participants are required to exercise high levels of concentration throughout the workshop. Observers should be mindful of this and should refrain from talking among themselves, frequently entering or leaving the room, or typing loudly on their laptops during the discussions.  They should not offer explanations or other commentary unless requested to by the facilitator. Discretion is paramount.
  • Where topics for discussion are likely to be very sensitive, the PSP Steering Group should make a decision about the appropriateness of having observers.
  • Observers should be aware of their role at all times during the day, including break and lunchtime, and should not engage in conversations that could influence the views of a workshop participant.