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Bringing the voices of all groups into analysis

Natasha Bance

To develop effective government policy we must understand and represent a diverse range of experiences from different groups of people. As the effects of COVID-19 have demonstrated, government decision-making affects different groups and individuals in different ways. We must embed an understanding of these differences in the analysis conducted to support policy decisions and in evaluation after a policy decision to ensure equity of access, opportunity and to improve the effectiveness of policy decisions.

The challenge is knowing where to begin and how to include a range of voices in analytical work. You may be asking yourself questions like:

  • “What groups might I miss?”
  • “How do I engage a range of groups?”
  • “How should I interpret this data?”

Guide to inclusive social research practices

The new guide to inclusive social research practices from the Government Social Research (GSR) Profession is here to help you. The guide includes practical tips to help capture input from all parts of society and concentrates on four main areas.

The first section is on research design. The most important tip is to plan for an inclusive project from the start. This means taking time to understand different groups and acknowledge the barriers and enablers of different engagement strategies. This will take time and resource, but it will allow you to build in the necessary steps at the beginning of the project so your research captures the views of all relevant groups.

The second section covers how to collect data on people’s views or experiences. It is important to consider the different needs of various groups and be aware that you may need to use a range of methods and approaches. This could include using both online and offline data collection or having surveys in easy-read formats. Best practice research inclusivity encompasses more than simply promoting opportunities to participate in the research using different mediums.

The third section of the guide concentrates on how to analyse data from diverse groups. This highlights the importance of looking deeper into the data and shows how breaking data down into sub-groups can reveal differences in attitudes and experiences. When designing your research project you will need to ensure your the sub-groups are large enough to allow for accurate conclusions to be made from the data.

The final section provides advice on how to report findings. After collecting and analysing your data you should report it in a way that continues to reflect the diversity of your participants. We need to report on the findings of our research in a balanced and inclusive way so the decisions they inform are fair and equitable.

The new guide also contains links to further resources. It is a great tool to further develop your own analytical skills to deliver people-centred solutions for all those affected by UK Government policy.

Will Nicholson, Beth Holloway, Jamie Juniper and Kat Wingfield
Natasha Bance
Will Nicholson is Head of Research and Evaluation for Advanced Manufacturing in the Department of Business and Trade.

Beth Holloway is a third-year social research fast streamer in the Central Analysis and Science Directorate at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Jamie Juniper is a third-year social research fast streamer in the Evaluation Task Force at the Cabinet Office.

Kat Wingfield is a social researcher in the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, which is an arm's length body of the Department for Education (DfE).