A core strand of Changing Landscapes is sharing data as part of knowledge exchange across the network. The project as a whole comprises a series of linked strategies: data sharing, knowledge exchange, synthesis and review, and secondary analysis. These bring together a new body of qualitative longitudinal and life course research on the third sector, in order to exchange data and knowledge of relevance to the future development of the sector. Sharing these distinctive forms of knowledge across academic and practice organisations provides the foundation for scaling up evidence and creating impact for practitioners, service providers and for wider public policy.
The data sharing strand aims to explore and promote ways in which a linked collection and assembly of qualitative longitudinal data gathered on the third sector can be used to generate insights to address particular research questions. The questions posed as part of the Changing Landscapes study relate especially to the micro-dynamics of change in third sector organisations as they navigate a shifting policy landscape.
Selected data between two projects in the Changing Landscapes network, Real Times by the Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC), and Pathways through participation, by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) with the Institute for Volunteering Research and Involve, were brought together at a data sharing event in the early phase of this project in order to:
- explore the possibilities of emergent and interpretive analysis of each other’s data in understanding key aspects of the micro dynamics of change in third sector organisations;
- consider how this exchange might develop and refine the analytical questions for the synthesis and review strand of the project; and,
- contribute to, and refine, the key analytic themes for secondary analysis.
In this section:
Preparation for data-sharing: Seeking consent for data-sharing
Participating projects had to ensure that they had consent for the data to be shared. For Real Times, a qualitative longitudinal project that had always anticipated the possibilities of re-use, permissions had been sought for data sharing and re-use throughout the fieldwork stages. For Pathways through participation, letters seeking consent from participants needed to be drafted and sent out.
Retrospective consent-seeking is a challenging process, raising questions about research burden on participants who may have considered their association with the project to finish at the end of fieldwork and not expected to receive any further communication. Writing the letters so that they contained enough information about data sharing without being confusing and overly wordy was also necessary. And, as anybody who had conducted longitudinal research could testify, tracking participants over time is a methodological challenge. Where participants do not respond, it is necessary to consider how many more times it is appropriate to seek consent. In Changing Landscapes, the Pathways through participation project sent out the first letter, and then a reminder letter. It is notable that out of 10 participants, only (?) responded. All responders gave consent.
Bringing data together
Third sector organisations formed the cases within the Real Times project, whereas the Pathways through participation project focussed on individuals. Before the Pathways project sought consent it was necessary to understand how the data from these different projects could be brought together. Real Times focused on organisations, whereas Pathways was concerned with the unfolding of individual biographies and how and whether these could articulate journeys of participation.
Additionally, for an event of this nature, a small amount of data generates considerable discussion. Therefore, it was essential for both projects to be quite selective in their choice of data to bring to the data sharing event.
Key themes were developed through ongoing discussion between the respective project leads Rob Macmillan (TSRC) and Veronique Jochum (NCVO) prior to the event, based on the key questions underpinning the Changing Landscapes project, and also an intimate knowledge by both project partners of their own data.
These themes included:
- Boundaries between paid and unpaid work (including unpaid overtime, increasing volunteer responsibilities, and volunteering outwith the voluntary sector)
- Differing perceptions of volunteers and volunteering – from paid staff in voluntary agencies (e.g. as a resource), and from volunteers themselves
- How organisations view the ‘commitment’ of volunteers
- What is it like being a volunteer – who decides what volunteers do and how is this determined
- Selection of volunteers/activists for their particular skills, capabilities and experiences (a class bias?), and coping with rejection.
Project partners looked at their respective datasets for suitable transcripts. Transcripts from Real Times were drawn from three particular case studies based on searches under codes on ‘volunteer’ and ‘human resources/workforce’. Transcripts from Pathways were drawn from a suburban case study area, one of three in the study, based on an initial search under codes for ‘organisational context’ and ‘organisational support’.
Practical Strategies: Practical strategies for the day
In setting up the data sharing event we were careful to explore key themes in the data already observed by the original research teams, so that we could compare data. These themes also reflected the core interests of Changing Landscapes.
As you will see from Veronique’s blog below, part of the joy of undertaking data-sharing between projects is that, as researchers, we become both primary and secondary analysts, and our reading of our own data is enriched. This data sharing process also enables us to generate new insights and questions that, especially in qualitative longitudinal research, we may take forward in new fieldwork, or perhaps bring to our existing data.
The outcomes of the data-sharing workshop are still developing, as analysis from the day is simultaneously informing the synthesis and review strand of the research, and the secondary analysis strand.
As briefing papers and materials from these activities emerge they will be posted on this website, and will identify how and where data-sharing contributed to, or shaped, emerging analytical questions and insights.