Safety and Motivation

Neighbourhoods refers to large areas based on the City of Toronto’s formal division of areas (E.g., Dorset Park and Mount Olive).

Routes are smaller areas within neighbourhoods that we used for scheduling surveying sessions. Routes were developed based on number of houses to visit and the total area.

Letter and flyer are physically printed materials given to residents as a reminder to complete the survey.

Protocol are the procedures and processes for surveying the target population.

Residents refer to individuals who surveyors asked to complete the survey. In this handbook, we use residents unless otherwise specified.

Participants are individuals who agreed to complete the survey.

Replenish is a meeting between the survey coordinator and surveyors to exchange necessary materials and formulate solutions to any survey-related challenges.

Replenish Protocol is an outline developed for each replenish that outlines which surveyor is responsible for which route and what materials are needed from the survey coordinator.

How did we ensure surveyor safety?

Safety is the most important concern when conducting surveys in neighbourhoods. Although there may be minimal concerns surveying the neighbourhoods in your sample, it is important to develop a safety protocol that protects the surveyors in the case of an incident. Your safety protocol might include provisions for protecting surveyors’ physical safety as well as privacy and confidentiality.

  • Develop a protocol for dealing with physical safety issues. The following elements are important to share with surveyors
  • Remove yourself from the situation
  • Ensure that you and your partner are safe
  • If your life is under threat, call 911
  • If you believe to be safe, call the survey coordinator and talk through the situation
  • Make a note about the incident to keep a record
  • Discuss with the survey coordinator on how to avoid the situation or area.
  • Meet with members of communities of interests and residents to identify “hotspots” in the sampled neighbourhoods.
  • Communicate hotspots with surveyors prior to sending them into the field.
  • Describe the potential safety concerns that the surveyors may experience in the field. At the same time, communicate the protocol for dealing with safety concerns. Provide a space for surveyors to react to this discussion and acknowledge their concerns and answer their questions.
  • Survey in pairs.
  • Conclude a surveying session immediately before sunset, especially in areas identified as being hotspots. Sunset time will change throughout the year.
  • Do not carry more than $200 at any given point in time. For surveying where surveyors stand in one place, do not carry cash at all and instead provide online gift cards.
  • Consider staggering visits to the same neighbourhood. For example, have two surveyors visit the neighbourhood on day 1 and day 3 but not day 2.

There were two shootings in the span of a week in a specific neighbourhood. The first shooting happened at the same time one pair of surveyors were in the field. The team was within walking distance from where the shootings occurred. The survey coordinator did not realise this until the following morning and after speaking to the surveyors.

Although the surveyors did not notice the shooting, the survey coordinator provided the opportunity for surveyors to voice their concerns to alleviate any hesitations they may have. At the same time, the survey coordinator halted surveying in and near the neighbourhood where the shootings happened. For residents, we did not want neighbours to mistake survey participation with aiding law enforcement, which could stigmatise survey participants in their communities. This was especially the case since we were visiting a select number of random houses; members of households we do not intend to visit may view or activities as suspicious.

The week after this incident, there was another shooting in the same area, although surveyors were not in the field at the time. This consecutive incident raised alarm among surveyors and prompted a surveyor to leave the team citing safety concerns. The two consecutive shootings raised both safety and human resource issues. To address this, we set up a time for an open dialogue with surveyors. During the meeting, we expressed our acknowledgement of the two shootings, the safety precautions we have developed to address these concerns, and our appreciation of their work to finish the survey. The primary reason for having this meeting was to anticipate increasing reluctance of surveyors to continue surveying. We wanted to complete the survey within our timelines, but at the same time ensure that the surveyors felt comfortable and safe to continue.

  • Acknowledge that surveyor safety is the most important concern when conducting surveys in communities.
  • Develop a safety protocol that protects the physical safety as well as privacy and confidentiality of surveyors: determine neighbourhoods in your sample with history of violence and communicating this to surveyors, stagger visits to neighbourhoods, send surveyors in pairs, communicate all safety concerns openly with surveyors, conclude surveying before sunset, and reduce the cash that surveyors hold.

How did we maintain surveyor motivation?

Surveyors spend several hours a week in the field, visiting a number of houses daily, and experiencing multiple negative responses from residents; all of which may affect their motivation and their ability to administer surveys effectively. Having high motivation from surveyors was a crucial component of project success not just for response rate but also for making the experience enjoyable and meaningful for surveyors. This section outlines the various strategies we employed to motivate surveyors throughout the data collection period.

  • Acknowledge that surveyor motivation is essential for the success of the survey.
  • Develop a number of strategies to increase motivation through the data collection period: before entering the field (initial training, weekly meetings, and having surveyors work in pairs), in the field (virtual conversations), exiting the field (regular updates on survey progress, informal focus groups, dinners).