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Seeking Consent

It has been a long time since I used a consent form in a research setting where I did not know the people I was interviewing. It happened to me recently, however, and reminded me just how uncomfortable consent forms can be especially when they appear within minutes of introductions across a table.

While I am uncomfortable writing about the specifics of the project, it involved contract research in a BC native community. I was invited by the community to conduct the interviews. The consent forms are part of the process of informing interviewees of the reasons for the interviews and what will be done with the information they provide. The form says that they will be paid for their time and knowledge. Telling people these details of the work is important but, still, thrusting what amounts to a contract into the hands of people shortly after meeting them was awkward.

One interviewee refused to sign the form. He then stated that he was willing to be recorded on tape. He agreed that what he said could be used in reports and made public in the form of transcripts. That action suggests to me that a signed consent form might not be necessary in this case for gaining an acceptable level of informed consent. It also encourages me to learn the appropriate protocols around owning and sharing knowledge or stories in this place. Perhaps there are local ways of doing these things that won’t seem like the impositions of a nosey outsider.

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