Reality Check

Reality Check

The Reality Check Approach is all about listening to people in their own context.  It is an approach that can help inform the overall research project evaluation and involves researchers going into communities to live with, and learn from community partners. This approach provides an opportunity to observe daily life. There are no interviews, focus groups, or any type of formal questions, but instead an opportunity to listen, and hear from community partners in the context that they’re living. The Reality Check Approach is used to learn more from the voices often less heard in health research and those who might not be present at typical types of engagement activities. Instead, the researchers go to connect with community partners to ensure that the evaluation of the research project reflects their needs.


There are 11 elements of the Reality Check Approach:

1.  Living with community partners instead of them having to meet researchers where they are at.
2.  Having open conversations around what a successful research project would look like, what changes would community partners like to see.
3.  Learning from community partners, and having them decide how the research project should be evaluated.
4.  Centering on the household/family of community partners.
5.  Using private space of home, instead of public space of university and hospital settings.
6.  Accepting multiple realities, instead of gaining consensus over what makes the project a success.
7.  Looking at the entirety of community partners’ experience/context, instead of just parts/aspects of it.
8.  Researchers and community partners interacting in ordinary daily life.
9.  Letting experiential knowledge lead the way.
10. Including everyone who makes up part of community partners’ lives (i.e. family, friends, neighbours, etc.).
11.  Understanding how the research project can be evaluated over time when it comes to improvements in health outcomes of community partners.


The Reality Check Approach is useful for:

  • Helping develop an understanding of community partners' own views on change and improvement, thereby providing a more relevant framework from which to evaluate the research project.
  • Unpacking barriers and facilitators to the achievement of  the research project outcomes.
  • Uncovering important evaluation metrics from the point of view of community partners.
  • Not just asking community partners about what success would look like to them but also seeing and experiencing how they navigate their daily lives in order to gain deeper insight.
  • Making sure that a diverse amount of perspectives help inform the evaluation framework of the research project.
  • Ensuring the evaluation framework for the research project takes into account change over a longer period of time.


Additional Resources:

1. What is the Reality Check Approach?

2. Reality Check Approach