Martin Price, MYPLACE Project Manager, on approaching end of the project’s primary data collection phase.
For more information on the MYPLACE project, visit the project’s website: HERE
It is often said that success has to be earned. As it is in other aspects of life, so it is in empirical social science research.
MYPLACE now has data. MYPLACE is an empirical project, and its success always had to be built on the foundations that would be laid in the data gathering phase. So what have we collected? In summary, across 30 field sites in 14 countries, we have collected 17,177 (face to face) responses to our questionnaire survey (at an average length of around 45 minutes), and completed follow-up, semi-structured interviews with 877 of those respondents – yielding over a month of recorded audio (around 37 days). Tales of fieldwork heroism abound. Here I will just give some examples to provide some hint at the scale of the task.
In gathering the survey data in the UK, the intrepid team of researchers from Manchester Metropolitan University knocked on 26,452 doors (3 times or more) in Coventry and Nuneaton. A fieldwork coordinator described his hardy team at the end as being “visibly thinner and toughened up” by the winter months patrolling the streets of the field areas. The semi-structured interviews naturally varied in length, but while the average was a little over an hour, one member of our Russian team holds the record with an interview which was 6 hours long. That’s dedication – from interviewer and respondent.
Elsewhere, working with museums, NGOs and other ‘sites of memory’ our Work Package 2 researchers have completed 73 expert interviews and 54 focus groups with young people. You can read their reports on the first stage of this work here <link>. Work Package 2 will continue to produce data through inter-generational interviews through its next phase throughout 2013.
All this is accompanied by a huge volume of data from interviews and observation from over 40 ethnographic case studies (Work Package 7) of youth activism, many of which still have researchers in the field.
There will be much we can learn as we reflect on the experiences of gathering these big datasets. Teams have faced and overcome not only the challenges of massive fieldwork operations, and wrestled the usual problems of sampling and methodological issues, but in many cases have done so in the face of (for many countries) a deepening economic crisis, where higher education institutions have been squeezed hard in some cases and public administration as a whole has struggled with austerity measures. Other partners have had to fight a difficult political landscape.
Still more can, and will, be written about the process of integrating the data, across cases and countries, and ultimately pulling together the different work packages.
The real purpose, however, and the bulk of the work now facing the project team, will be in turning all this data into findings, and of course finding the right channels and audiences for those findings. Those audiences will be both academic and non-academic, with much work to be done on ensuring that our work informs policy in meaningful ways.
It will be by these outputs that the success of the project will be judged. But any such success will only be possible because of hundreds of hours of contact time with respondents, tens of thousands of doors knocked on and intercoms buzzed. Not to mention the thousands of miles covered around and between fieldwork sites, mostly in the depths of winter (albeit those depths being deeper in some places than others). As we now begin to analyse our data and turn it into publishable outputs, I think it is worth keeping in our minds that we have earned the right to speak on youth engagement, disengagement and activism.