I have had the pleasure of working with Caroline Watson in a consultant capacity and found her work exceptional. Specifically, we hired Caroline to conduct a series of interviews with community members who had experienced homeless and pregnancy and convert them into scripts to use in a training for medical providers. Our community participants carried with them multiple intersecting marginalized identities and experiences, including experiences of homelessness, substance use, and pregnancy and child rearing. Building rapport and navigating interactions with our participants needed to be handled with respect, openness, and nimbleness.
Caroline was passionate about the work from the moment I approached her. I knew from our first conversation that she would do a fantastic job building rapport and recording the stories of our participants –and I was right. She took on a casual and friendly air with our participants that put them at ease and made them feel like they were engaged with a peer who “got them.” Throughout the interview process, she validated the experiences of our participants in an empowering manner that both communicated respect and empathy. This helped our participants to open up about difficult experiences. She respected their time and worked to find the mode of communication and means of storytelling that was most comfortable for them. She also firmly honored boundaries of our participants and navigated challenging topics with them deftly.
She also was not afraid to hold the research team accountable and insist that the work be done in an ethical manner. Before agreeing to the work, she confirmed that we were adequately compensating our participants and were approaching their participation from a place of empowerment, not exploitation. Throughout the process of interviewing and transcribing our participant stories, she was adamant that participant’s own words and perspectives shone through. She also made sure that each participant had a chance to review and sign off on the write up of their story before sharing with the research team to ensure that she had accurately captured their voices, and that they were comfortable sharing the product. This was so important with our community members who are often not afforded that level of control or respect.
Throughout our work relationship, I appreciated Caroline’s professionalism, timeliness in job completion, and strong ethical compass. She navigated dynamics of medical and research professionals and community members with remarkable ease, her personable manner making rapport with these different groups so easy. She was also very communicative and kept us up to date on the progress of the product, working effectively within a tight turnaround time. The stories she produced for us were honest and comprehensive, and reflected the individual voices of our community members well.
Lastly, she was passionate about the work we were doing and went above and beyond, offering additional ideas for interviews and feedback on our larger project. She also brainstormed and offered additional ways we could share the stories to elevate them and bring them to a broader audience.
I respect Caroline tremendously and was so grateful for the energy, skill, and experience she brought to our work. I would recommend her for any storytelling-related communications work, and, in particular, work looking to elevate the voices of marginalized people and groups.
Erin Wingo, MSPH
Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Medicine
University of California, San Francisco