As more research moves online, decision makers express concern about the risk of excluding low-income families, young people and people of color.
The fact is these same groups are also difficult to reach by traditional research techniques. There is a reason why these and other groups are classified as “difficult to reach.”
Adding creativity to the research process can overcome access issues. Some techniques CFM has used include:
- Combining phone, web and direct mail questionnaires to collect information. The questionnaires used are identical. How data is collected varies by target group.
- Translating surveys into native languages. Using translated questionnaires overcomes language barriers and demonstrates commitment to the survey.
- Distributing and collecting printed questionnaires where difficult-to-reach groups congregate. Churches, fairs and special events that cater to a specific ethnic group allow researchers to get information from people who may otherwise be missed using traditional methods.
- Forming strategic alliances with key stakeholder groups. For example, people with low incomes will visit agencies that offer housing, food and health care assistance. Ministers, pastors and priests also can open doors to their congregations. Strategic partners add credibility to the survey and provide easy-to-manage distribution and collection points for surveys.
- Using Facebook ads as a recruitment tools for surveys and focus groups. Ads can be targeted based on a variety of characteristics and are very effective among young people.
There is no silver bullet to solving how to conduct research among difficult-to-reach groups. The best rule of thumb is to engage the target audience in places where you can find them and they are comfortable.