Making voices heard: By Anita van Mil

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This week we see the publication of Chew it over, our dialogue findings report on the fascinating journey we began with theatre company Look Left Look Right and Wellcome Trust’s The Crunch during 2016. Weaving theatrical scenes and dialogue sessions we pushed the boundaries of public engagement and explored with just under 200 members of the public around the UK the interconnectedness of food, health and the environment. We discussed the big picture of the food system in the context of people’s lived experience to inspire new ways of thinking. We gathered tons and tons of data, flip chart notes, timelines towards plausible futures and many hours of audio recordings, enough to keep our analysis team busy for a good few weeks.

Writing the report has been a delightful experience for all of us. It highlighted just how much we enjoy the process of first designing and running the events and then reflecting on our findings. I love balancing what the client is hoping to gain from the process (an answer to a research/ policy question) whilst sincerely reflecting the views of the members of the public involved in the process. Our allegiance absolutely lies with both, which is why we tend to allocate almost as much time to analysis and report writing as to the design and running of dialogue events.

We hope the Chew it over report will provide policymakers, researchers and others involved in the food system with valuable insights into what matters to people from all walks of life about the interconnectedness between food, health and the environment.

Equally we hope Chew it over participants recognise how their contributions have helped us shape the narrative. Their laughter and sense of humour have kept us glued to the recordings for many hours and their stories have lit up many office days. Ultimately we’re in the business of making voices heard so reliving every single session is at the heart of making sure everyone's views are accurately reflected. Happy reading and listening from both Henrietta and me!