A good survey garners opinion; a bad survey leads!

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These blogs are coming thick and fast as Lewisham Council’s position regarding Beckenham Place Park becomes ever more untenable.

I have just conducted some empirical research – well it sounds good and maybe by process of osmosis I have been infected with Lewisham Council’s ability to make far fetched claims without blinking an eyelid.

However, I did get a tad carried away with my research and pressed a button I should not have.  So, smack my wrists and I promise to take more care and not to do it again.

What is this research?  Well, I was going through Lewisham Council’s Children and Young People Survey with regard to Beckenham Place Park to see how it is structured and, as with all on-line surveys, you can’t progress from screen to screen without filling it in.  And, of course, I am not a child or young person – but then neither am I a pensioner from Downham, as I was disparagingly referred to by one of Lewisham’s partners in the new scheme for Beckenham Place Park some time ago.

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Anyone want to comment on the relevance of pensioners and Downham?  Are they another group of people that are second class citizens?

Anyway, the thing is I got carried away and pressed the submit button.  Very careless of me and so I want to advise Lewisham Council to remove the survey which said the pupil from Rangefield School, living at BR1 4LA, was sad because her dad won’t be able to play golf anymore.

Hold that thought a minute.  I was a Rangefield School pupil xx years ago, living at the given post code and my late dad would have been sad.  Even more to the point, my brother still lives there and uses Beckenham Place Park golf course every week and will be very sad indeed if it closes.

Actually, perhaps I should not feel so guilty about my slip of the finger on the submit button?  Perhaps I should look at it as giving my brother from Downham and his friend from Lewisham a voice?  After all, they wrote to Lewisham Council expressing their views, which they sent by post to be signed for.  The letter was signed for, yet on subsequent enquiry it appears that the officer to whom it was addressed, Mr Plaskitt, cannot locate it.

Strange!

Indeed, my brother and friend also advised in a separate communication that they would like to be part of the upcoming consultation process, but they have not received an invitation.  Well, what did they expect?  Neither of them are on email and we all know Lewisham Council think that people who don’t use the internet are second class citizens.

Bit like the golfers being second class citizens.  So, for Rob and Lee that is a double whammy!  For Rob it is a triple whammy – because he lives in Downham, as well as being a golfer and not on email.  However, he doesn’t yet qualify for the four card trick as he is younger than me – and I am not a pensioner!

Seriously, though, this survey thing is all a bit tricky.

At the end of this blog you will find the thoughts of an industry expert about this survey, who starts with the observation that she questions the appropriateness of the methodology for the age group.

I can see her point; surely a survey needs to be pitched differently to a 7 year old than a 16 year old?

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Anyway, someone came across the survey on Twitter and advertised it on Facebook.  So, the thing is, if I got carried away with my research and carelessly pressed “submit”, how many other people might do so too?

How many people who are not entitled to complete the survey will do so?  Where are the checks?

People from both sides of the divide could easily complete this survey.  Will the Council be matching the name of the young people with school records to ensure the people taking part are real?  In any case, your name is only required if you want to enter the prize draw; what if you don’t?

Genuinely, what if you don’t?

It’s strange that this survey is on Wide Horizons’ website and not the Council’s.

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Wide Horizons, of course, have a vested interest in changes to the park.  Not that anyone begrudges them use of the park – like they begrudge the golfers.  Despite bringing 150 kids from Tower Hamlets to the park on 2/7/15 to undertake a field study, their CEO, Alex Brooks Johnson, is insistent that they need all 240 acres of the park in order to set up their new base.

I expect Alex is looking forward to having all that space to cycle in.

Unlike Twitter, Wide Horizons cannot block me from their website.

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I digress.  To return to the survey, take a look and see how it is structured.  It highlights the kind of activities Wide Horizon offers.  Funny that.

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Funny how it doesn’t ask young people if they are happy with the park as it is at the moment, but they have asked kids what they don’t like!

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Strange that the first half a dozen screens ask kids which activities they would like to try, but there is no option to say “no, not interested.”

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Yes, I had to as well – search for Zorbing.  Have you seen the cost?

Thing is, if you let kids loose in a sweet shop they will … erm … eat all the sweets?  Obviously if they are offered these expensive activities they are going to say a big loud

YES!

Now consider this screen:-

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Seriously, I mean seriously, the proposed lake at Beckenham Place Park will not support boating/canoeing/kayaking in any meaningful way.  I’ve blogged before – yawn!

Outdoor swimming – wot larf!  Actually, the statistics are that open water pursuits are far more dangerous than golf.

Will Wide Horizons be providing the model boats or do the kids (who can afford it) have to take their own?

Pond dipping, that’s an interesting one.  There is already a large pond at Beckenham Place Park, it’s been neglected and fenced off for decades.

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Now why is it that they did not include a “not interested” option for the opening series of screens, but they managed to do so for a following series? For example:-

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Oh yes, I nearly forgot, they have mentioned golf in passing:-

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Did you know there used to be a popular junior golf academy at Beckenham Place Park?  It closed.

Now, this screen is a strange one (funny how that word keeps cropping up in connection with Lewisham Council – what was it Mr Plaskitt said about the “strange” contract with Glendale?)  – and the slider looks fun, but ….

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… what do they mean by safe?

Option 1: Do you think they mean that kids might think – “can I use the skateboard park at Old Bromley Road entrance and be safe in the knowledge that if I need the loo there will be toilets available?  Or will I have to save it up until I get home?”

Option 2: Do you think kids might be tempted to do kid-type things, like play conkers or climb trees, but think to themselves “better not, better wait for the Council to cut down trees and for Wide Horizons to nanny me.”

Option 3: Do you think kids go walking in the ancient woods alone and think they might come to harm?  Seriously?  Just as well there are golfers nearby to appeal to!

Option 4: Do you think kids might think the majority of present users of the park are all undesirables – as Lewisham Council clearly do – and it’s not safe to share space with the bogeymen/women?

I wait with baited breath for the results of this “survey.”  In the meantime, here are some thoughts from an industry expert:-

“Having reviewed the Beckenham Place Park children and young people survey online (http://www.widehorizons.org.uk/tag/beckenham-place-park/#beckenham-place-park-children-young-people-survey) I have made the following observations.

 My initial thought, before reviewing the questionnaire, was that I question the appropriateness of the methodology for the age group. The survey is aimed at 7-16 year olds, which is a very broad age range. A 7 year old will generally need parental help to complete a survey while a 16 year old will generally be confident and capable of completing the survey independently.

 In the market research industry, we would usually consult with young people under the age of 16 through their parents. The Market Research Code of Conduct requires that all researchers seek permission to speak to young people under the age of 16 either from their parents, guardian or someone in loco parentis (e.g. school).

 In my opinion, the survey is neither age appropriate for the wide age range, nor does it include the appropriate permissions to ensure that the young people taking part understand what they are completing.

 If Lewisham Council had approached me to design this consultation, I definitely would have suggested an alternative approach.

Looking a little deeper at the survey, I notice a number of issues with the questionnaire.

Firstly, the survey does not gather current opinions of the park. In no place does it ask the young people if they are happy with the way the park is at the moment. This approach is biased and encourages the participants to select future changes to the park. The survey does not present the reality which is that any changes to the future of the park will mean current features in the park will be removed. The survey does not consult on keeping the park as it is, or what should be removed to make way for future changes.

An additional point to make is that the consultation focuses on the activities that could be introduced to the park. Activities that will be run by a third party. The survey does not include options for more family orientated activities (without the need to employ a third party e.g. picnic areas), nor does it feature low maintenance sports facilities e.g. football pitches.

I would also criticise some of the scales used in the survey. The question that ask young people to rate the frequency of their physical activity is wrong. It asks young people to choose if they are active once a day, once a week, once a month etc. In reality, young people may be active more than once a week but not on a daily basis. This question does not capture that and in doing so, it makes me think that this questionnaire was not well thought through.

 The final point I would like to make about the survey is that I am sceptical about the authenticity of the participants taking part. Hosting the survey online is not the most reliable way for the Council to gather feedback. In the market research industry it is accepted that hosting a survey in this way will not result in a representative sample of young people in the area, especially if the Council is relying on young people to find the survey while online.

The Council needs to share the steps they plan to take to authenticate the young people taking part. Will the Council be matching the name of the young people with school records to ensure that the people taking part are real? This is a concern for this consultation as the results could very easily be discredited given the issues mentioned above.”

Turn the lights out on your way out.

 

 

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