VANL offers a range of community research services, charged at very competitive rates. Community research involves the community both in responding to the research and in actually carrying it out.
While learning the processes involved, participants gain experience and self-confidence, and are able later both to carry out their own follow-up research and to begin new research projects. The initial consultation is free of charge.
Why carry out research in the first place?
Funders want to fund projects that are really needed – after all they don’t want to throw money away. So how do you prove that your project is necessary?
Answer: you need to carry out some research.
The kind of research needed depends on the size and type of project you are hoping to set up.
A bid to set up a small village friendship club who would go out for occasional meals and day trips could be supported with a short questionnaire; it could even be restricted to people living in the village in question who are in the age group intended. If enough were interested to make the club viable, and they all returned their questionnaires, then you are home and dry.
Voluntary Action North Lincolnshire can help with the questionnaire process at a variety of levels and price ranges. Contact us for further details.
A bid to provide a youth club in a town where there are problems caused by bored young people would need a larger piece of research. You would need to show that:
- the young people would be interested in joining a group.
- the people living in the area would not be upset by a group being formed, and indeed would support it by volunteering to help.
- the needs and wishes of the young people have been taken into account in the activities proposed.
To do all this you really need an open-ended piece of research which would allow people to say what they think, rather than restricting them to choice (a), (b) or (c) in a questionnaire. Voluntary Action North Lincolnshire recommends a process known as Participatory Appraisal, which uses a team of researchers who go out to speak to the people involved. In this case “the people involved” (the sample) would be both young people and residents.
The researchers take research tools which are large and colourful and invite people to join in and add their opinions; all opinions are noted, but no names and addresses are taken (unless an interviewee is very keen to get involved on a voluntary basis with the project, in which case details would be kept separately). However, statistics of age, gender, approximate area where they live, etc. can be collected, and these can be used to show that your research has been comprehensive and fair.
Participatory appraisal is not a cheap process, but grants can be found to help pay for it, and the report at the end of the process gives priorities for the project to address and some possible solutions. These solutions are drawn from what the people involved have said, and therefore stand a better chance of being sustainable – i.e. continuing after the first few months of enthusiasm!
In the past, people have identified a problem and thought of a solution, then applied for grant funding to start the project. In many cases, these projects failed and no-one knew why. We now know that one reason was that the solution was not what the prospective users of the project really wanted, and no-one had asked them for their opinions before starting work. That is why we recommend that the prospective users of a project are actually asked what they think before applying for funding. If at the same time you can interest some into volunteering to help, then that is a major bonus. That is also why we recommend participatory appraisal for a large project – questionnaires often do not allow people to say what they really think, and, with the best will in the world, the results may therefore be skewed towards what the organisers were expecting.
To find out more about participatory appraisal and other methods of community research, download the brochure.