Posted by: Don Linnen | 22 December 2007

Wiki Social Science

Does your nonprofit really offer what your end user clients need? Or are they just taking what’s offered even though they really need something else?

Currently I’m on a church committee with a goal to facilitate social, economic, and spiritual transformation in one of the poorest areas of Dallas. Realizing it’s nearly impossible to find a solution until you’ve identified the problem, I’ve been a part of two different surveys to determine the main problems in this area of need.

Results from both surveys were very similar. But two things bother me about these surveys:
1) they were conducted by well meaning people who had little training in preparing or conducting surveys
2) over 90% of the participants represented only about 40% of the people in the area

How can we be sure we are addressing the real problems in the area???

The Wall Street Journal recently had an article on investment research and wiki’s. Wiki’s are a fascinating way to me (a yawner to my wife) of collaborating on most anything. Wikipedia is currently the most prominent example of lots of people working together.

In Everybody’s an Analyst the writer discusses a new kind of web site that offers financial information from a broad group of people acting unofficially (and with little regulation) in concert.

This has significant limitations when it comes to investment advice, but what about research? Especially in the area of social science.

Accurate surveys cost money. Even if you get a nearby university to put its students at work on this.

But if there was a demographics wiki web site available, it seems to me that lots of nonprofits could take advantage of better information on their end user clients.

Imagine that. Getting more efficient on the cheap. Actually working together, maybe even towards a clearly defined goal.

Are there any smart people out there working on this?

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