CIRI (Community Impact Research Initiative) is a pioneering, community-based effort to assess and address public concerns in a manner that provides confident reporting and sustainable solutions.
CIRI began under a much different name, "The Octopus." Back at a leadership conference, I bumped into a guy who is a pivotal member of a foster care ministry and began speaking with him in depth about the reasons kids find themselves in the custody of DSS. Me and my wife were active in foster care and if memory serves me right, we had just adopted our first child. We were also heavily invested in a local substance abuse ministry as well.
However, at some point in that conversation, I began to wonder if there was a way I could find out, what the most common reasons for DSS taking custody of children were. After some digging and contacting them, I stumbled upon a curious conclusion. There appeared to be little to no communication between not only that agency, but what appeared to be many agencies.
Non-profits, hospitals, emergency rooms, police, public services, et cetera seem to suffer from isolation, in regards to collection of data. The more I dug, the harder it became to actually find the numbers I was looking for. And at that point, I decided to shelve the project and return to it at a later date. I had some sort of grand idea, but no real way to achieve it.
It would be two years from that date that I would return to a notebook and find that idea. I began to make a spider diagram on the wall and try to identify every area I thought would be affected or show some level connection to substance abuse, on a community level. And like the first time, the scope of the project overwhelmed me once again. How can you even remotely attempt to approach something of this magnitude and do it right?
If you can't get as much data as possible, and if you can't get it from the sources you need, then the margin of inadequacy could potentially lead to unintentional error. If you can't do it as close to right as possible, then there is no reason to do it. I had to take a step back and re-assess the project. Leading to it sitting on the shelve for another year.
After I finished my last book, I took a week or so off and then began working on a new book. But during the initial planning for the new book, I was threw off-course by a realization for the octopus. Was I going about the project in a biased manner? Was I trying to prove the connections, more so than just looking for connections? How can I let the population of the county determine the concerns and see if it matches up with my initial hypothesis?
Enter the Community Concerns Survey. This would be the only way I could honestly say that I was not influencing the research. So, a pre-survey was conducted on a Facebook page for Hendersonville, NC. This pre-survey was in the form of a post with a simple request, what are your concerns for your community? The response was overwhelming and eye-opening.
Concerns I have never entertained were brought up, repeatedly and to a greater extent, I had a better idea of the scope of issues facing the residents of Henderson county more than I ever could have imagined. The survey also helped expose this project to the community. Now that the pre-survey has been conducted, we can now take that information and create the official survey.
CIRI is an acronym that stands for Community Impact Research Initiative. And it is a model that we hope to fine tune and prove out for not only use in our county, but every county across the United States. I believe in it's ability to help transform communities, not only financially, but in infrastructure and sustainment.
After conducting the pre-survey, we tallied the almost 400 responses and began parsing the information into categories. This allowed us to synthesize and create categorical concerns. By assigning a category, we then were able to assign a subcategory for each and every response. Those responses are found in the infographic to the right. For a larger version, click here..
Next, we began populating a survey form with questions that would retain anonymity, while also providing a rough composite of the responder. This is known as the beta test. With research models, you have to work at it in stages, to make sure that your architecture is correct before you go full scale. You have to de-bug as much as humanly possible. We reached out to a few people that expressed interest in taking part of the beta survey and had them fill in their responses.
We then took that information and started converting to our database. What we are looking for here, is how well do our categories sift out, is the wording correct, etc. If we cannot prove the model with 10 or even 400 responses, we have no hope at proving it with over 100,000.
Right now, the final model for the official survey is being finished and will be available on February 5th, 2021. We will continue to update with results. Once the official survey is finished, we will begin stage 2.
2021 Pre-Survey Results