Why is qualitative research key for community outreach programmes


Since the internet has well and truly unlocked the data doors, public sector organisational leaders have been looking at new, innovative ways to gather data. 

Whether it's Facebook polls in local community groups to gauge public interest on a particular social issue or hosting interactive Zoom sessions to conduct community outreach, there are many ways you can extract data from the public. 

But one of the most important methods of gathering data is performing in-depth qualitative research, which is essential for understanding the nuanced, complex social dynamics of a local community.

As you know, understanding the complex perspectives of your local community is essential for informing your leadership, public policy, and program implementation.

That's why we're taking a deeper look at what collective intelligence and qualitative data IS and why it's important for conducting in-depth community outreach research. 

Let's get started!

What is the difference between quantitative and qualitative data?

Before we dive into the importance of qualitative data for community outreach research, let's first explain the difference between qualitative and quantitative data. (We know you know, but we all like a little refresher now and then!)

Quantitative data

Quantitative data is usually needed when you want to test or confirm a theory and is often expressed in numbers or graphs. With quantitative research, you're generally looking to answer "how many," "how long," and "how often" questions. 

Qualitative data

Qualitative data is needed when you want to understand something that you can't count or measure and is often expressed in words rather than numbers. With qualitative research, you're usually looking to answer "why," "how," and "what" questions. 

What is Collective Intelligence?

In the early 1900s, there was a popular experiment which asked around 800 people to guess how much an ox weighed. Though nobody gave the correct answer, the average weight from their combined answers created an almost perfectly accurate final figure!

This theory perfectly demonstrates the idea of collective intelligence, which is the idea that a group of people working together can come up with a better solution than one single person working alone.

And when it comes to community outreach and local engagement, there are many benefits to gathering qualitative collective intelligence insights. 

The benefits of qualitative research for community outreach

While quantitative research methods can tell you things like the number of people in your local community that use your local park, they cannot tell you how people feel about your proposed construction of a new dog park. 

But that's just one reason why qualitative collective intelligence is king. Here are some more benefits of using qualitative research to gather collective intelligence insights for your community outreach initiatives.

Provides direct communication

Qualitative feedback methods allow public organisational leaders like yourself to open up a direct line of communication with the very people your decisions will impact. 

Creates deeper understanding

Qualitative research for community outreach programs can help you ask more complex questions than quantitative research, like "how would constructing a dog park improve your quality of life and why?"

Fosters community buy-in

Local community engagement can help secure more public buy-in for decisions, initiatives, and programs that directly affect people in your local community, allowing you to push agendas forward faster.

Allows for complexity

Quantitative data collection often asks close-ended questions with multi-choice answers. This gives the local community little room for elaboration. Qualitative data allows you to understand people's experiences and why they feel the way they do about specific policies.

Supports quantitative research

Qualitative research can be used to test the validity of insights gathered from quantitative studies (like community outreach statistics, etc.) and add value to them by providing supporting context for the results. 

The issue with traditional qualitative data-gathering methods

Let's imagine you want to determine a consensus in your local community for a particular community outreach program. How do you go about gathering that qualitative data? 

Typically, you'll rely on surveys, town hall meetings, or expert panel discussions. However, these methods often have more cons than pros for gathering qualitative collective intelligence insights from your local community. 


Surveys can't account for the nuance in people's answers. They might ask an open-ended question, after asking recipients to pick a response from a predefined list. However, this doesn’t allow for much elaboration. Also, they're notorious for low engagement!

Town hall meetings

Town hall meetings can often result in a sort of "mob" mentality, where loud voices can sway the group or polarisation, where two sides can't agree. They're often logistically challenging too!

Expert panels

Expert panels can often be exclusionary, as they don't account for the diverse thoughts, feelings, and viewpoints of the wider community. Plus, experts aren't always right!

If only there were an easy way to gather collective intelligence insights without the drawbacks of traditional research gathering to get a clear consensus from thousands of people in your community…

Enter: People Supported Intelligence (PSi)? Ta-daaaah!

PSi is the first and only voice-based app for collecting qualitative data insights from people's real-time conversations!

It's the perfect platform to enable community participation, as it allows you to pose a query and get a consensus from thousands of locals in under an hour!

For example, you can ask questions like:

  • "How do we solve food poverty in our community?"
  • "How can we better support the mental health of young people?"
  • "What charitable organisation providing mental health support do you prefer and why?"
  • "Why do we need more community-building activities for vulnerable adults?"

The best part? People in your local community can offer feedback on your ideas, community outreach programs, and initiatives from their homes, removing all logistic challenges. 

Since PSi extracts insights from voice-based data, it allows for the complexity and nuance of people's answers. It gives you a chance to make participatory decision-making easy, fast, and incredibly headache-free.

Want to learn more about using qualitative data for community engagement? Read our previous blog, “The best community outreach methods to boost citizen engagement.”

Discover the benefits of using PSi for community outreach today!

As we hope you (now) understand, if you want to access insights that are truly representative of your local community to support the delivery of policy changes, secure buy-in from local residents, and make informed decisions, then qualitative research is the way to go! 

Instead of wasting time, energy, and money on surveys, town hall meetings, and expert panels that don't deliver the collective intelligence insights you need, why not extract meaningful insights with PSi?

PSi's natural language processing and unique algorithm interprets community feedback data for you, so you can spend less time reading community feedback reports and more time making impactful decisions. 

This is your GDPR-compliant answer to authentic, scalable, and accurate community insights. Our easy-to-use platform allows you to ask thousands of citizens a question and receive a consensus in just one hour! 

Want to learn more? Play our choose-your-own adventure-style collective intelligence game to see PSi in action!

Ready for your adventure? Play our game now!

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