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APEN 2001 International Conference

Toowoomba, 4th-5th October 2001

Report No:


Title of Topic:

How do we Record and Value Qualitative Data that Demonstrates Change in a Community?

  • To meet outcomes
  • Justify what you do
  • Share stories within/between communities
  • Link to policy development

Name of Leader:

Rachael Webster & Sue Sorensen

Names of Participants:

Peter Long, Noel Ainsworth, Ray Murphy, Margaret Cruickshank, Valerie Sapin, Graham Harris, Katherine Boon, Peter Wegener, Maxine Schache and a couple of unnamed people.

Main points of discussion

  • The purpose of the question was to stimulate discussion on how to effectively record and present qualitative data to communities, co-workers and organisations and policy makers.
  • The Victorian government to moved from production based to environmental
  • outcomes, which has recently evolved to include social aspects – triple bottom line.
  • There was an example given of the Future Profit – Improve program, that’s based on Bennet’s Hierarchy.
  • RIRDC website – Jessica Dart paper published on the evaluation of extension.
  • The values of case studies and testimonies, eg. The engagement of journalists in Longreach to record changes in the peoples own words that could be compiled into fact sheets for project managers or funding bodies. This led to longitudinal studies being conducted in the area and demonstrated a need to use mixed approaches in recording information.
  • The value of inviting funders to experience the situation for themselves to make their own judgements. Funding bodies like a personal touch and hearing comments from people.
  • Other creative ways to collect data are – tape, videorecording, diaries, reflections and case studies.
  • That there’s a need to align your work to funders priorities and record information that meets these priorities.
  • That semi structured phone interviews have been valuable to assess change over a long period of time – from a Victorian experience.
  • Bennet’s Hierarchy is useful as it offers some structure to the recording of information – making qualitative evaluation closer to quanitative evaluation.
  • There are benefits of asking people outside your work, field or project to gauge change – ask questions such as what do they know about the project and what changes they can see – finding a compromise and being strategic.
  • Practice change is complex – ? The usefulness of measuring it.
  • Question what is to be achieved and how this can be measured.
  • Policy is driven by quantitative data and there’s a culture of comfort with this form of data collection. The positioning and recording of data is important.
  • There’s been a change from people needing skills in evaluation, to the point where we’re over servicing - we are becoming imaginative by default.
  • There has been a cultural shift in the acceptance of the use of qualitative and quantitative data as valid measures of change in communities. The rigour of qualitative data collection is important.

Major outcomes (what have you achieved from this discussion; how can this make a difference; what else do you need to do?)

Increasingly qualitative data is being utilised and valued across community development.

The question on how qualitative data is recorded and presented as a valid indicator of change remains and will be developed and expanded as we continue to work with communities.

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