Another major concern in transitioning to phone surveys was to ensure beneficiaries would be in a private and safe environment when answering our 30-minute-long survey. We knew that asking people private questions about topics like health and personal finance can be tricky, particularly when there might be others nearby listening. Again, verifying privacy and building trust before getting to sensitive questions is easier in person, but we adapted. In the end, despite the additional time it would require, we included a set of questions at the beginning of the survey to give the beneficiary time to build rapport with the interviewer and find a comfortable place to speak. It turned out very few respondents needed to find a new place, but this helped us assure we wouldn’t be excluding any participants because of concerns about being overheard.
Lesson learned: Allow more time at the beginning of the survey to build trust with the beneficiary so that they feel safe and open to discuss key confidential information in a private location.
How can we ensure the beneficiary can complete the survey on the phone?
We had concerns from the outset about people having the stamina and interest for 30 minutes of answering questions, but as we begun we discovered many had physical or mental limitations, like hearing loss, that got in the way (of those who did, 87 percent reported a physical condition, and 1 percent a mental/psychological one). So we added a set of questions early on to allow them to include a helper, typically a family member to help or be an intermediary between the respondent and phone interviewer. By the end of the data collection, nearly 25 percent of respondents had availed themselves of the option to receive help.
Lesson learned: Be sure to take into account the population you’re sampling and any disabilities or difficulties they may have with the survey. Design the survey itself and data collection methodology around the needs of the survey population.
What does this mean to our data and research?
Though we faced challenges transitioning to a phone survey during the pandemic, our additional steps ensured that we reached the most vulnerable of populations and addressed our biggest concerns. Our work and findings are meant to both improve the digitization process for this specific program in Bangladesh, but also to provide broader lessons for financial inclusion and incorporating new methodologies into future research projects.
In our next post, we will share the findings from this monitoring survey in more detail—stay tuned!