Survey Development

(Please) Don’t Ask Me For One More Survey!!!

Note my politeness at the beginning.

No, I am not saying that as an evaluator I want to do away with analyzing and reporting numerical data, nicely illustrated on EvalThoughts, if you want to know more. I’m not saying I want to drop my baton as a self entitled “master of survey design either.”

I am saying that what makes me…ME as an evaluator is not just my ability to crunch numbers, which is mostly done by computer software anyway.

My masters is in Social Work so looking at the person, in their environment, and the systems that contribute to who they are as a person is just something I do naturally in my evaluation practice. This applies to the Client. Community Worker.  Manager. Student. Doctor. Teacher. Mother. Ethiopian. LGBT(QQ___).Kids Wearing Highlighter Colors. Person I Pass on the Street. I just find people’s “story” fascinating, it’s a way of life for me (I digress).

Fortunately or unfortunately I was in a clinical program, however, I knew what I wanted to do *research/evaluation* and I was able to apply most of the concepts I learned for working with “clients” to my work with clients, program staff, leaders, and community workers for evaluation projects.

Group facilitation=applies to focus groups

Interviewing clients=key informant, in depth, conversational, you-name-it interview method for data collection

Research methods= 0:)

I pulled this excerpt from the CBS Interactive Business Network Library article: The person-in-environment approach: professional ideology and practice of social workers in Israel


The person-in-environment approach views the individual and his or her multiple environments as a dynamic, interactive system, in which each component simultaneously affects and is affected by the other (Hare, 2004). It views the individual and his or her environments as forming an ecosystem, consisting of the individual, all the systems with which the individual has reciprocal relationships, the wider environment in which the individual acts, and all the mutual interrelationships that occur between the individual and the various subsystems. Within this ecosystem, individuals are influenced by and influence their environments through their actions (Johnson & Yanca, 2001; Kondrat, 2002).

I get requests all the time “Karen, we need a survey!” or another data collection tool/protocol and I immediately think “no, you don’t”. We need to talk about your client, program, management, goals, interventions, barriers and successes on different levels to get to the heart of the matter. You may need a work flow to help you understand different processes in your program, a theory of change model, etc. and possibly a survey. However, these tools should not be used as a solution, but as guides to get you closer to your desired destination.

Thoughts? Do you take a particular approach before survey development? How does your academic training play a role in this process, if any?


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