Advantages And Disadvantages Of Social Research

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There are many reasons for conducting social research for local government. Local councils may wish to test a concept or idea amongst its rate payers, there could be a program or initiative they have been running for a while with little evidence about how it is performing, or perhaps councils may need to assess the needs of a particular group within the community. Whatever the reason, it is not uncommon for the social research consultant they have commissioned to come across some challenges in the process. Most challenges can be overcome with experience, creative thinking, flexibility, and an open relationship between consultant and Council.

Challenge #1: Reaching unengaged communities

Some members of the community are highly or moderately engaged with Council and community activities, but it is likely that the majority of people are not. To reach unengaged members of communities it may be necessary to conduct telephone surveys with a randomly-selected community sample. Alternatively, it can be useful to intercept members of the public at local events or even in the street or the library, and either ask them some key questions at that moment, or recruit them for research at another time. If the research brief calls for understanding the views of the broad local community, not just those with a particular interest in the topic, it is important to try to reach unengaged communities.

Challenge #2: Encouraging participation

Once communities have been reached, how do
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