Impact story: Choosing appropriate ways to gather data

Incredible Edible Marshland was set up in July 2019; it is a very small volunteer-led group that aims to use growing and sharing to bring together residents from five rural villages in the East Riding of Yorkshire, part of a UK-wide federation of groups. Not yet registered as a charity, the group received significant funding at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, which helped them to carry out community activities such as:

    • involving the local pub in sending out 1,000 meals, and helping the pub to survive as a local meeting point
    • distributing grow boxes with compost and vegetable seeds for people to grow their own produce
    • distributing bags of daffodil bulbs for households to plant outside their homes
    • setting up sharing wheelbarrows with free seeds and produce
    • delivering shopping and medicine
      supporting local micro-businesses that popped up during the pandemic

They also helped to keep the community talking and sharing by setting up WhatsApp groups – one of which has over 100 members, all sharing information, tips and unwanted items. One of their volunteers described it as a ‘Mexican wave of generosity in the villages.’ They also set up a Facebook page, which has enabled the villages to connect more and become less insular.

How to collect the right data

Taking a formal approach to data collection, they delivered together with the meals a simple, eight-question, paper questionnaire, which was also available online. They chose paper forms as they knew that many of their users were not online. The questionnaires provide good quantitative data to share, which they have found motivating. They did find that the amount of written, qualitative data took a long time to input from the paper forms, providing a lesson for future data collection. To bring their data collection alive, they also collected photos of people sharing their own gardening glory!

Although collecting and inputting data has been time consuming, and a low priority for the volunteers, the Incredible Edible Marshland founders have found it important for planning and delivering their projects. For example, by asking for feedback about the meals, new needs like access to library books or worries about debt were also uncovered – signalling new projects that could be undertaken and signposting that could be done. They were also able to get further funding for the free meals project as a result of their evidence of continuing need.

This story – like some of the others in this series – illustrates the importance of gathering feedback, both to check whether service delivery is making a difference but also to find out about new avenues for future services, for which funding is needed.

If you are thinking of doing something similar we suggest you:

  1. Plan how you are going to involve users in your impact practice. Use our quick exercise for deciding how to involve users.
  2. Think about creating multiple ways for people to share what’s on their mind. E.g. via whatsapp, an online form, on call with you etc.
  3. Records notes, feedback or casual conversations. See Evaluation Support Scotland’s guidance on capturing casual moments.
  4. Offer participatory or more visual tools such as photographs, videos, body maps, comments wall or anonymous virtual versions using google documents etc. See Evaluation Support Scotland’s guidance and NCVO Knowhow’s participatory methods for measuring impact. 

Sign up to our newsletter

Stay up to date with the latest news from Inspiring Impact