From local Compacts to the Big Picture: the Compact Voice annual survey of local Compacts explained
By now many of you will have seen that Compact Voice has published the report of our 2012 Annual Survey of local Compacts. For an organisation of our size, this has been a massive undertaking but we believe (and hopefully you'll agree) that it was a worthwhile endeavour.
For us, the whole process starts with checking that our contact list is up-to-date. We have developed a list of key contacts for each local Compact that is made up of people who we know have in-depth knowledge of their local Compact. In the process of checking these contacts we also check the status of each local Compact. We note which Compacts are active or inactive and those areas that are not covered by a local Compact.
The number of active local Compacts has fallen from 202 in last year’s survey, to 182 this year with the reasons for this being varied and complex. I will be exploring this issue later in this blog.
There are two types of information that we look for in our survey. The first is information about how local people (in both sectors) “feel” about their Compact, how well it is being implemented and cross-sector relationships in general. The second set of information is what we refer to as benchmarking data. This is measurable, factual information as how often the Compact group meets, whether plans are in place for a renewal in the next year or which statutory partners are signed up to the Compact.
To make sure we got this information we created two surveys. The “general” survey went out to the widest possible audience and contained only those questions based on perceptions. The second “extended” survey asked benchmarking questions and was sent out to our key local Compact contact list which, as mentioned above, we had identified prior to sending out the survey. This ensured that only those who we knew would be able to answer were consulted on technical questions. After answering benchmarking questions, respondents to the extended survey were then asked the same questions as the general audience.
Once we had closed our survey we then set about analysing the huge amounts of data it generated. We have been careful to ensure that our analysis is as balanced and robust as possible. For example, where respondents provided information that stood out from the results as being odd we on occasion, got back in touch with the respondents to check that it was right.
We also made sure to test data to ensure that the information that we present stands up to scrutiny by using a variety of different analytical methods rather than simply relying on averages which are easily skewed. In compiling our report we were careful to highlight any factors that might have affected the results or impacted adversely on the validity of the data. In short, we have done our best to present a representative and unbiased picture of local Compacts.
It is true that something as far ranging and human as local Compact working can never be fully appreciated by merely looking at statistics. Indeed, reviewing the implementation of a local Compact requires a much more careful scrutiny of relationships, actions and perceptions that are sympathetic to local circumstances.
However, the collection and analysis of information at the national level allows us to monitor trends and speak to government on behalf of our Compact audience with a degree of authority, as well as help raise the profile of Compact issues to a broader audience.
Many people will see the headline results from this years’ survey which have been widely reported (such as in Civil Society and Third Sector), and some will even tackle the much more detailed Survey Report.
However, I am eager to expand on some of the themes suggested in the survey’s findings and dig deeper into what they might mean in practice for those trying to implement local Compacts.
As such I will be blogging on the following themes from the survey over the next few weeks:
- The reverse localism of local Compacts – why are we seeing an increase in support for top-tier Compacts but decreasing numbers of district/borough level Compacts?
- Compact workers and compliance – can one person really positively influence statutory sector behaviour?
- Exploring the Compact’s regional identities – whether the target of autonomy or emasculation by politicians, it seems that regions still mean something in the world of local Compacts