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Qualitative approaches

Last edited: January 03, 2012

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Qualitative approaches

Common evaluation methods are based on social science research standards that are adapted to the needs and constraints (limited time and budgets) of campaign evaluations. Most often, a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods of data collection is applied to get a rich picture of where the campaign stands.

Key informant interviews

These are qualitative, in-depth interviews using interview guides that list topics or open-ended questions. Key informants are actors who know the issue and the target audience well, for example community leaders, social workers or community activists. Work with key informants to get an overall impression of public opinion, trends in practices and attitudes. Key informants can often be ‘gate keepers’ and facilitate access to a target group that is not easy to reach (e.g. social workers working with convicted perpetrators).

Case studies

Case studies are a useful research method when evaluating how change has happened in different countries, regions or individual cases, and what role a campaign could have played in the process. Data for case studies is often collected using both qualitative methods (including interviews with key stakeholders and, to a lesser extent, direct observation) and quantitative methods (including available statistical surveys).

Example: Amnesty International’s global campaign to Stop Violence against Women, which ran for six years (2004-2010) was reviewed based on case study design. This approach was chosen due to the scale of the campaign and the huge amount of activities carried out within the campaign. Case studies were carried out in the UK, Kenya, Uganda and Venezuela. In addition, a general survey compiled information from Amnesty International sections and structures.

Read the review report “A Synthesis of the Learning from the Stop Violence against Women Campaign 2004-10” written by Tina Wallace and Helen Baños Smith (2010). In English, French, Spanish and Arabic.


Focus group discussions

Common in evaluation, communication and market research, they are a useful tool to assess the target audience’s knowledge and attitudes towards the campaign issue, or towards the campaign materials and messages. See Focus group discussions for tips on organizing focus groups.

Example: The Red Flag Campaign created by the Virginia Sexual & Domestic Violence Action, used focus groups and the internet as part of their evaluation strategy. First they used focus groups to determine what college students thought about dating relationships and their willingness to intervene if they witnessed anything that was troubling. After the initial posters were created, the designers reconvened the focus groups to ask students if the wording in the campaign was appropriate, whether the target audience could identify with the models, and whether the poster design enhanced the message. The designers then made changes based on that feedback.

Source: Potter, S., Incorporating Evaluation into Media Campaign Design, Harrisburg, PA, 2008, on VAWnet, a project of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence/Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Participatory assessment methods

Participatory assessment of process, inspired by community development methods, can provide rich qualitative information. Commonly used methods include Outcome Mapping and the Most Significant Change technique. See Data collection methodologies for information on how to use these methods.