I’m not a survey

Duncan Mackenzie, Performance Auditor, tells us more about the calls for evidence he and the Local Government Studies team undertook recently to inform their 2018-19 studies and why they are important for our work.

In the world of audit, opinions matter. The cliché exists that auditing is just about crunching numbers, but in reality they way people think and feel is just as important to our work, especially when it comes to planning studies.

We have a variety of tools at our disposal to help us get this sort of information, one of them being a call for evidence. These are like a survey, only it doesn’t feel like one when you are completing it (which is good!) It is also easier to design and build than a survey, and the whole process from start to finish can be shorter, too. So everyone wins here!

We use them when we are interested in opinions and views, as opposed to quantitative responses, information to guide your thoughts rather than being used to form definitive positions. They are particularly useful in the planning stage of studies if you want input into defining scope and remit.

Hearing from those in the know

When we want the opinions of external bodies and/or colleagues (councils, other public sector organisations, etc.) or individuals to inform our work, we tend to build a survey. And in many cases, this is the right thing to do.

But in some cases, if the scope of the survey is tightly defined (maybe focussing on only one subject or issue), if the number of questions we want to ask is small, if the distribution list or anticipated number of responses is small, or if the time available is limited then a call for evidence could be your go-to option.

Distributing a call for evidence is also straightforward. Its format lends itself to using email, which can easily be forwarded onto the most appropriate person if you are distributing through key contacts. Using an email also allows you to include supplementary information that provides detail about the purpose of the call for evidence, the wider study remit and our work in general.

So, in short, where the information being sought is suitable for a call for evidence, such a process will be more informal than a survey, quicker and easier to draft and build, and (hopefully!) well-received by recipients.

Desire to know more intensifies

We’ve just released some calls for evidence on a number of topics including;

  1. Are Planning Services delivering value for money [opens in new window];
  2. Tackling violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence [opens in new window]; and
  3. Implementing the Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Act 2014 [opens in new window].

The calls for evidence we ran to support our 2018-19 Local Government studies provided information which helped us to identify existing issues and points of interest and informed the drafting of the study Project Initiation Document. All three studies are looking at the impact of new legislation on local government, so the calls for evidence have given us a baseline, qualitative data against which we can measure changes in service and opinion during the studies.

About the author 

Duncan is a Performance Auditor in the Local Government Studies team. On secondment from the Local Government Data Unit, he has an unhealthy interest in dissemination and the correct use of data. He also referees rugby and basketball to a higher level than he was ever able to play at!

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