The biweekly ‘So What?’ guide highlights advice, events, and tips — mostly from the advocacy and evaluation worlds, selected by the Aspen Planning and Evaluation Program.
A Tipping Point for Social Change
Changing complex social norms is, well, complex. Norms are often strongly rooted in tradition, enacted by the people around us, interlocked with institutional structures, and cemented by our perceptions of what others think we “should” do. So we were intrigued to see this new experimental study examining the “tipping point” for changing a norm. Their conclusion: “roughly 25% of people need to take a stand before large-scale social change occurs.” Sure, real life is more complicated than an experimental setting, but it’s an interesting data point: sometimes a committed minority is all it takes to shift norms. That’s potentially heartening and ominous.
No, I Don’t Want to Take Your Survey
Ouch. Such rejection – and resulting nonresponse error – is a source of great angst (and bias) in survey research. Why won’t you respond to our super important survey? What if we say pretty please? Still no? How about if we deploy a full-on Nonresponse Follow-Up (NRFU) program, using a face-to-face personalized recruitment pitch? That’s the approach NORC has tested with its AmeriSpeak Panel. The result: NRFU boosted the response rate from 5.8 percent to 33.7 percent and improved the representativeness for hard-to-reach segments like young adults (18 to 34) and Hispanics. NRFU respondents also tended to have more moderate policy attitudes. Is NRFU more expensive? Yes. But worth it, we say, if it means a more accurate understanding of what We the People (or for those of us who conduct smaller scale participant surveys, You the Participants) really think. So be warned, non-respondents: we may just start showing up on your doorstep.
Don’t Silo Success
Here at the Aspen Planning and Evaluation Program, we think we’re s-o-o-o-o tough when we ask our clients to answer our blog’s titular question: “So What?” We mean it constructively: “Okay, you completed that activity, we have evidence it produced some results, but did those results actually get you closer to your broader social or policy change goal?” The answer may depend on how we define success. In this thoughtful blogpost questioning the “So What” question, Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church examines how success is defined, and reminds us that sometimes the silos that donors, officials, advocates, and evaluators occupy can make it impossible to see the bigger picture.