Rebecca and I have been developing a survey tool that SST can use to evaluate its impact on the lives of SHG members. It has been a wearisome process involving several false starts and many modifications. The first time SST administered the survey, the frequency of one entry stood out significantly in the Excel results: “NR”. As Rebecca and I examined the data we talked about the many reasons for these No Responses. A combination of miscommunications, delays, confusing survey questions, and other factors contributed to participants’ survey-fatigue and my own feelings of exasperation. With these things in mind, we then strategized with SST staff to prepare for next time. What could be done to improve the survey and the survey-taking conditions so as to encourage total question response?
I learned some sound advice about working with people during my first year studies. HBSE made me more cognizant of the way multi-level factors influence individual and collective action. In Research Methods I was taught that making one’s own measurement tool is extremely difficult, and that one should use an existing tool whenever possible. In Intro to Community Organizing students discussed ways to run an effective community meetings, such as offering refreshments as an incentive and courtesy, starting the meeting on time, and making sure that administrative tasks were delegated beforehand. Had all of these learning points been implemented perfectly, there is a much larger chance that our first survey attempt would have run more smoothly. But it’s harder than it sounds to put it all into practice. The reality on the ground is that even with the best theories behind you, and even with the best of precautions in place, unforeseen challenges may still surprise you. There’s nothing to do but to roll with it and problem-solve as best you can. The way you approach the situation can help too, as one’s expectations are culturally informed. Baskar reminded me that patience is a skill that social workers must learn, and he’s right. I would rank patience right up there with empathy. It’s frustrating for me at times to have to work through translators or to have our schedule changed last minute, but patience, flexibility, and a sense of humor have helped me re-frame these otherwise stressful situations into golden learning opportunities.
SST administered another round of revised surveys again this week. This time I had a good feeling about the results. As SST staff thoroughly explained the concept behind the Likert scale questions, Rebecca and I offered tea and biscuits to the attentive women whose time and honest answers were greatly appreciated. There were also some delays this time around but more importantly there was good participant turnout and an excellent response rate. Rather than being exasperating, the experience was pleasurable—which is how interacting with others is supposed to be.