One day, a couple of years back...
…I found myself in Kansas City, Missouri conducting research. I was in the 18th and Vine District, aiming to understand the existing tension between the community and the local elected officials. Based on my content analysis (reviewing ongoing press), the community was frustrated at the revitalization process that the neighborhood was experiencing
Needing Something More
My goal was to understand why. So I met with local business owners, elected officials, developers, and leaders of cultural institutions. Most importantly, I stood no the street to ask people questions.
During this time, I experienced people who were too busy to stop and chat; people who spoke different languages; and people who had a lot to say.
I vividly remember thinking “there has got to be an easier way to connect with everyone and document these data points”.
Here are our 4 reasons:
That’s where co:census was born. I had the first-hand experience of needing a tool to engage people that reflected the needs of our current society. So I want to share four reasons an inclusive survey product like co:census is critical to the success of your community outreach:
- Reducing data bias.
Oftentimes people think “I’m creating a survey to get feedback”, and thoughts on inclusion stop there. What needs to be understood is that your data is only as good as the questions you asked. Going a step further, your data is as biased as your survey is. Creating a survey should include a process of co-design, research, and community validation This encourages stronger, more inclusive datasets.
- Getting culturally competent.
Creating surveys in multiple languages address many problems that presently exist when engaging communities. Most importantly, it encourages multiple groups to engage in a process that fosters ownership and access. When languages and dialects are limited, you also limit your dataset. Getting culturally competent and getting more responses based on more diverse survey language offerings is the key to you collecting stronger data.
- Building more accurate datasets.
Oftentimes, after taking extensive notes I wonder “did I miss anything?”. This is why I often find it best to record interviews or document focus groups and meetings. However, this is not always the case. When you have an engagement tool as your alternative plan, whether it is a recording device or an SMS survey, you have an accuracy tool that documents information you might miss. No one is perfect, so having a backup measure like this works great. It is especially helpful when I think of all of the community meetings I attend and where that information goes.
- Accessing people who would be otherwise missed.
Technology is a great tool to make processes more efficient. I think of the day I stood outside in Kansas City –and how many people I did not get to talk to, or poll, because they were busy. Using a tool that builds an environment of access is so important to community engagement. It is very much about “this and that”. Creating in-person engagement opportunities is awesome and so is using tools to engage those who cannot meet in-person. This multichannel strategy to engagement fosters a communication channel where more people can feel a part of the community building & development process.
A vision for inclusive surveys across America
All surveys should be inclusive. But realistically, we are just hitting the baseline right now with online forms, SMS surveys, and more emphasis on co-design. Our call to action is to do better.
Our current features for inclusive surveys include survey design support, multiple languages & dialects, SMS surveys (no internet access needed), and co-design coaching. Our team also focuses on integrating anti-racist frameworks & training into our work.
We are working to build more features that can support every organization and elected official in America to design inclusive surveys. So far, we have five cities in four states on board. If you want to join us in creating more inclusive surveys sign up to launch your firsts inclusive survey here.