Ethics should be considered from the initial stages of planning research and getting to know a community, through to running co-designs and testing prototypes with people.
Below are some important principles to adhere to as you plan and conduct any of the design phases – Immersion, Co-design or Prototyping:
- Be honest and transparent: tell your participants about who you are and what your project is about and how you will be using their information. That way they can give their information consent to be part of it or not.
- Get informed consent: ensure your participants are voluntarily participating and give you their permission to record and use the information. This includes getting their permission to take photos or video recordings and ask them sign talent release forms so you can use their images in your documentation.
- Be respectful: be sensitive to your participants’ feelings and to cultural norms (i.e. gender, age, status, language differences). If participants are nervous or uncomfortable put their minds at ease and let them know that they can’t do anything wrong. If sensitive information comes up make sure you have necessary support or know where to refer people if needed. Never pressure participants.
- Stay attentive: maintain eye contact and don’t get distracted. It’s advisable to conduct your research in pairs so someone can be the interviewer while the other person is the note taker.
- Keep an open-mind: represent your participants accurately, and be open to what they are saying and doing. It’s their story, not yours.
- Keep information confidential and safe: keep participants’ information safe, use only for the purpose of your project unless otherwise agreed. Respect their anonymity if you’ve promised this and use a pseudonym rather than their real name for any quotes or personal stories.
- Design for accessibility: make sure people with different abilities can participate and you accommodate for requirements like wheelchair access, a support person, language barriers, low proficiency in literacy.
- Be inclusive: have a clear rationale for who you want to involve in your research and who is left out. How you select participants, be that individuals or groups, may impact the validity of the research samples and findings. Be as inclusive as possible so you can get diverse opinions and views.
- Choose the right method: consider the different methods of design and the strengths and limitations of these in relation to your needs. Choose methods that are best suited to investigate the perceptions and experiences of your participants.
- Be mindful of time: Don’t waste your participants’ time, keep an eye on the clock and stick to the plan or agenda they’re expecting.