Information Gathering, Part II: Stakeholder Perceptions

The CHC Inclusiveness Committee discusses how to collect stakeholder perceptions.

A month later, members of the Inclusiveness Committee reported back from their teams about the results of the information-gathering process. Trevor and Melody did a presentation on the best practices of other community health clinics from similar-sized cities. They were excited about what they found, including a model program in Dallas, Texas, which had recruited Spanish-speaking volunteers to serve as greeters in a clinic's waiting room. The greeters would then meet briefly with the nurse or doctor before the patients entered the examining room. It turned out that the patients described their symptoms more extensively to a peer than to their physician.

"Thanks, Trevor and Melody," said Joe. "That was great information."

"You're so right," said Luisa. "I'm going to try out that greeter method soon!"

"Good," said Ed. "Now we move on to stakeholder perceptions. Did everyone have a chance to read about this in the workbook?"

"I did," said Melody. "But I still don't understand exactly what they are."

"Stakeholders are the people who are involved in the clinic," explained Ed. "Anyone - staff, Board, volunteers, donors, patients. And when we talk about their perceptions, we're just asking people what they think."

"That's important, especially to me," said Eleanor. "We call it market research."

"Sure, I guess you could call it that," said Ed. "Except that in this case, we're asking people about their opinions on CHC's inclusiveness. Our first step is to identify the audiences or stakeholders we want to target. How about if you all start calling out some possibilities?"

The group came up with staff, Board, patients and their families, clinician volunteers, fundraising volunteers, and donors. Ed filled in the information on the worksheet provided in the inclusiveness workbook.

"How about other community leaders?" asked Marcie. "Some of them seem to be on top of this, as much as they talk about it in Chamber of Commerce meetings."

"Good idea," said Ed. "Okay, now it's time to think about how we'd like to get information from these groups. You have three ways of asking them for their feedback: surveys, focus groups, and interviews. Have you all had a chance to read about the different methods?"

Everyone nodded. "Surveys seem like the quickest way to get feedback," said Hector.

"It's quick, but it's not very deep," said Eleanor. "Interviews give you a chance to really probe on particular topics."

"Since the gathering of available facts took a little longer than we'd hoped, maybe we could start with surveys and do interviews or focus groups with audiences we need more information from," said Trevor. "And yeah, yeah, I know it was me who held things up."

"Trevor, that's a great idea," said Luisa. "And I know just the group who needs more than a survey. Our patient families! Many of them don't read or write in English."

"So would interviews or a focus group be better for them?" asked Ed.

"I think a focus group," said Luisa. "They could share ideas and problems with each other, and it might help them open up more to be in a group."

"There's one more audience we should consider for something more in-depth," said Beth. "The Board."

"Of course, you're right," said Joe. "How about interviews for the Board? Though we made some progress in the last meeting, I think they get a little timid when they're together in the Board room, at least on this subject."

"Okay," said Ed. "Let me summarize. You want to do surveys for the staff, volunteers, community leaders, and donors, a focus group for patients' families, and interviews for the Board. Is that right?"

"Sounds good," said Joe, as everyone nodded around the table. "Now, who's going to take this on?"

"I'll work on the focus groups," said Luisa. "But I might need an outside person to help. Ed, do you speak Spanish?"

"Un poquito," said Ed. "But I'm not fluent enough for this purpose. I have a colleague who works with me who could do a bilingual focus group."

"And Beth, Jeff, I'd like to do the Board interviews," said Eleanor. "If you think they'll give me honest answers."

"Eleanor, I think you'd be perfect. They know you and you've been here for some time. Given my personal story at the last meeting, they would probably be less honest with me," said Beth. Jeff agreed.

"Great, now we just need someone to work on the surveys," said Ed.

"I'll do it," said Hector. "I'll need all of your input on the questions, of course, but I have a Survey Monster membership and could do it all on-line." The group agreed, and spent some time identifying the topics for each audience and crafting the questions.

Over the next six weeks, Hector developed and piloted the survey with staff, then sent it out to the other stakeholders, thanks to Melody's help gathering e-mail addresses. Luisa worked with Manuela Rodriguez, an associate of Ed's, to accomplish the patient/family focus group. Finally, Eleanor conducted interviews with the Board, most of them in person. "It gave me a chance to make a good connection with each person," she noted. The trio presented their findings to the Inclusiveness Committee.

"Now we have to pull all of this information together," said Joe.