AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators

TAG | recruiting

I am Nicole MartinRogers, Ph.D., a senior research manager at Wilder Research. Our mission is to improve the lives of individuals, families, and communities through research and evaluation.

Most of the time when we are asked to conduct an evaluation study, the participants can be found through the program being evaluated (obviously!) But in some cases, an organization may want to do a study to learn about people who have not participated in their programs.

For example, Wilder Research has worked with the Minnesota Historical Society to conduct studies with people who have never visited their sites and who are from under-served cultural communities. To complete these studies, we were able to identify members of under-represented cultural groups, and have them participate in the program or exhibit and then in a focus group to learn more about their experience.

Lesson Tearned: We often do not have direct relationships with the under-served communities that our client organizations are interested in learning about. In those cases, we have contracted with community-based organizations that serve the target community to help us recruit and host studies. These organizations have trusted relationships with community members and are best positioned to help us identify participants.

Cool Trick: Community-based organizations often have locations that are familiar and accessible for members of the target community, so you should consider if it would be better to have participants meet at that community location and provide group transportation to your site.

Cool Trick: We often ask a leader from the community-based organization who recruited the participants to welcome them into the study and to introduce us (the researchers) to build trust. In many cultural communities, trust is gained through relationships, so demonstrating that you have the buy-in of a community leader can go a long way in terms of recruiting study participants from under-served communities and helping them to understand why it is important to participate in your study.

Lesson Learned: Offer incentives to participate. Consider what type of incentives might work best for your target group. It should be something that is useful to them.

Cool Trick: Perhaps the organization that is sponsoring the study can offer free memberships or passes to participants, or some merchandise from their gift store. Providing a cash incentive, transportation assistance (as needed), child care assistance (as appropriate), plus institution-specific incentives can help to encourage participation among a target population that has either low awareness of or interest in engaging with that program or place.

Rad Resources:

Wilder Research report for Minnesota Historical Society on Focus Groups with Potential Visitors from Latino and African American Communities

Speaking for Ourselves: A Study with Immigrant and Refugee Communities in the Twin Cities is a Wilder Research study that includes a report on civic participation and social engagement that has a section about mainstream cultural amenities; the main study page  has links to reports on the experiences immigrants and refugees in many sectors

More on community-engaged research from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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My name is Joshua Joseph and I’m a Sr. Program Manager at Partnership for Public Service, a non-profit that works to revitalize the federal government by focusing on people and performance.

This post is about recruiting study participants – a companion to Elisabeth Autio’s aea365 post from December of 2011. In line with Elisabeth’s good advice, my aim is to share some things that have worked to (1) put myself in participants’ shoes and (2) make it easier and (3) more attractive for them to say “yes.”

Rad Resource: Getting into someone else’s shoes can be hit or miss. Instead of a Web link, your best resource is probably a person. Find and talk with a few potential participants early on. Tell them what you’re planning and ask what matters to them. Keep it casual, implore them to be brutally honest and then listen. You’ll get insights, tips, do’s and don’ts – all from the perspective of real insiders.

Hot Tip – Making it Easier. Simplifying to minimize participant burden usually helps. How else can we make it easier for participants to say “yes?”

  • It’s easier if they aren’t scared. Tell participants how you will safeguard any sensitive information they provide and protect against adverse effects.
  • It’s easier if you’re credible and relatable. Describing a study in formal or technical terms isn’t the only way to sound credible. But, occasionally, we all forget. Plain language works just as well…often better.
  • It’s easier if they know what to expect. Tell participants what they’ll be doing and why it matters, if you can. Most will appreciate the info.

Hot Tip – Making it More Attractive. Raffles and giveaways can be great perks for participating. So can the promise to share project results. What else can we do?

  • It’s more attractive when they laugh. Humor tends to be underappreciated as a recruiting tool. Don’t force it but do look for ways to lighten up your message. It makes us real and humanizes our work, which is usually a good thing.
  • It’s more attractive if they’re special. Find what makes participants’ views unique and then tell them.
  • It’s more attractive if others are doing it. Most people like to know they’re in good company. Sharing that their peers or colleagues are signing up can do the trick.

Hot Tip – Reading the Room. These are rules of thumb, not absolutes. For example, I worked with a passionate group that wanted a longer, more in-depth survey to share their rich insights. Go figure! So use your good judgment to adapt as needed.

Get Involved: Please share what’s worked (or hasn’t) for you via the comments. Anything counter-intuitive?

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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