Using Research to Gain Constructive Feedback

Overview

CFM Research School District

A Washington State school district was struggling to get community input about tough budget choices. Using online and traditional research tools, CFM helped the district expand community participation from less than 100 to more than 3,000 residents in less than six weeks.

Challenge

After months of work and analysis by district administrators, citizen committees and consultants, a Washington school district wanted community guidance about two proposed levies and one bond. Each proposal had five options that offered more services and benefits, but at higher costs. Initial engagement efforts consisted of community meetings at local schools. Few people attended the meetings and comments were narrowly focused on a few projects.

Approach

The district approached CFM to conduct a telephone survey to help assess the funding options. CFM partner Tom Eiland recognized the issues were too complex to test over the phone. He suggested taking the questions online where constituents could ponder the implications of the proposals, consider alternatives and provide feedback. Eiland recommended using the district’s parent email list as a first step and follow that with a phone survey. In about a week, Eiland and district leaders developed an online questionnaire. The District used its survey tool to run the survey and, within seven days, nearly 3,000 parents had participated. Results enabled the district to narrow the focus to three financing options, not the original 15.

Result

Using the online data as a guideline, Eiland prepared a questionnaire and conducted phone interviews among a representative sample of 400 residents to assess opinions about two levy and one bond proposal. The phone survey was used to gather information the entire community, including those who no children in schools.

Using a multi-modal research design, CFM helped the school district engage more than 3,000 residents in less than six weeks. The effort allowed the district to obtain constructive feedback about complex issues and provide statistically valid data for its decision-making.