Community Surveys: Key Lessons for Planners

The concept of surveying residents to get their take on a development may seem like a simple idea, but it is no easy task. Planner Clement Lau shares key lessons learned about conducting and creating surveys as part of the planning process.
David Jackmanson / Flickr

When it comes to making decisions about what types of developments work in a particular neighborhood, who better to ask than the folks who live there?

Community surveys as part of the planning process are a key tool to help determine what elements of a project would work well in a neighborhood. However, creating a survey and getting responses are not as easy as it sounds.

“While creating a survey may sound simple, it really is not.  It is much more than just coming up with some questions and then having some people answer them.  Over the years, I have learned that it takes careful planning and consideration to put together a good questionnaire and implement an effective process of collecting information from our constituents.”

The first step is determining whether a survey is needed. Once a decision is made to move forward, the questions must be created.

“Good questions are clear and answerable for respondents.  When crafting questions, we must have the target respondents in mind.  We have to anticipate their receptivity to different types of question formats and their willingness to answer them.”

A sample group for a pretest should be formed once the survey questions are created. 

“Pretesting a survey instrument with a sample of respondents is very important.  Essentially, it helps us to figure out whether our questions are clear and answerable.  While we as the preparer of the survey may think that it is fine, we do not really know until other people start filling it out.”

In the article, Lau outlines how to write good questions, conduct the survey, and present the findings.  

Full Story: Surveys: Finding Out What People Want

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