Data-driven Wilbraham MA uses Mixed-mode Surveying to Set Town Vision

July 23, 2012 by Andrea Spillmann

Wilbraham, MA is a data-driven little town of fourteen thousand people. As it approaches its 250th anniversary, the town planning board asked an all volunteer "Vision Task Force" to gather data to guide it in updating its half-century-old master plan. According  to Susan Burk, Task Force member, the project's goal is "to have enough aggregate information with good ideas from townspeople which can point the way to what we would like the town to become."  To accomplish this goal, the  Task Force posted a 6-page Survey Monkey questionnaire on the web and invited citizens to complete it. When they realized that many of their target population would not complete the questionnaire online, they printed the PDF and distributed it by hand.

Captricity is helping enter the results of these paper surveys, to combine with the already-digital Survey Monkey results. You might remember one of our earlier blog posts on mixed mode surveys. The  Visioning Task Force is using exactly this method.

The Visioning Task Force turned to Captricity because "Using Captricity will enable us to combine manually submitted survey results with electronically submitted survey results to get a more comprehensive picture of the town's interests and needs and ideas." As Susan described, "Given that we live in a time of economic constraints, it would be tempting for us to just think about what we can do with what we have. However, Wilbraham is a very creative town and manages to do some wonderful things despite constraints. For example, when funding a new library was turned down at town meeting, committed citizens banded together and found a way to raise enough funds to enhance the current library in ways that make it much more usable by our community. We expect that by looking at people's hopes as expressed in the survey, we may generate enough enthusiasm and creative ideas that we will be able to realize some of our hopes, despite economic constraints." Including the voices of those who would not or could not reply to the online survey ensures that they will have input from the entire population.

We are happy to help Wilbraham's volunteers make quantitatively backed decisions about the future of their beloved town. The Wilbraham  Visioning Task Force is one three winners of our Data for Communities program. They understand how important using the right technology is to making sure the whole town has a voice in shaping its future.


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