Following-Up on the Follow-Up Interviews

March 22, 2014

Over the past year and a half, NECAP has collected and generated a staggering amount of rich data. For each of our four partner towns, we now have: community-wide data from our Triton polls, a Stakeholder Assessment, a Risk Assessment, before- and after-survey data from each of numerous workshops, notes from the debriefing section of each workshop, and transcripts or memos from follow-up interviews with 20-30% of participants. Needless to say, diving into all of this data and starting to craft a “case study” for each town has been both an overwhelming and fascinating process. To provide a quick peak at this process, I wanted to take a moment to share some initial findings in what I consider to be one of our most interesting data sets: the follow-up interviews. As the Research Assistant for the Town of Barnstable, I conducted follow-up phone interviews with about 30% of Barnstable workshop participants (4-6 weeks after the workshop). These conversations have easily been one of my favorite parts about working on NECAP. Even though I (roughly) followed a standardized protocol of interview questions, no two follow-up interviews were alike. Still, some general themes have emerged from my comprehensive initial analysis of the follow-up interviews. For example, 33 out of 38 interviewees (or ~ 89%) said they thought the consensus building approach to climate adaptation modeled by our workshops could help their community prepare for climate change. Similarly, 26 out of 38 (or ~ 68%) of interviewees said they thought that role-play simulations, such as the “Coastal Flooding in Shoreham” game that participants played in our Barnstable workshops, could help their community learn about approaches to climate adaptation. Of course, not everything said by interviewees was sunshine and rainbows. Three out of 38 interviewees (or ~ 8%) felt strongly that climate adaptation was not needed and were highly critical of the content and/or structure of the workshops. More commonly, interviewees who were supportive of climate adaptation and had positive responses to our workshops offered me various critique and suggestions, such as their feelings that our workshops were simply “preaching to the choir.” Indeed, recruiting participants with a diversity of backgrounds and beliefs was a challenge our team tried its best to address since our workshop content naturally drew a more environmentally-concerned crowd. However, the “preaching to the choir” critique actually makes me even more optimistic that a consensus building approach to climate adaptation in Barnstable could make a great difference. To me, this suggests that Barnstable residents genuinely want to hear and deliberate with viewpoints different from their own. Such open-minded attitudes would go far towards developing a successful consensus building approach to climate adaptation. Ultimately, we’ve collected a ton a great data. But, in my opinion, the follow- up interviews provide some really invaluable insights that will help put some of our more quantitative data sets into perspective. Stay tuned for a more formal analysis of the follow-up interviews and much more coming this spring and summer!

-Katie Blizzard, Research Assistant and Master in City Planning Candidate