Online Community Evaluation 2019 - Results
Hi everyone, I’m Jess and I’m Evaluation Officer at Scope.
Between January and April 2019 my colleague Giles and I did some research on Scope’s online community. We wanted to know more about community members and what they think about the community. The goal was to understand if and how the community helps people and how we can improve it.
For the research we sent a survey out to all members of the community. We also arranged some telephone interviews with a range of different members.
We received 1004 responses to the survey. This is more than last year, when we received 794 responses. We conducted 9 telephone interviews with individual members.
In this post we’d like to share some of the main findings of the research with you.
The community is a space that people use in lots of different ways. As a result, the impact it has on people is very personal. However, we found that people generally use the online community to:
- find advice and support about a challenge they are experiencing
- hear directly from other people in similar situations to themselves
- connect with others socially.
This year’s results created a lot of evidence – some positive, some negative.
👍 The online community has grown a lot in the past year. It remains a very useful resource for people wanting to solve a specific problem or issue. On average, members said it was more useful compared to other sources of information and advice than in 2018. Members of the online community who use it for benefits advice are especially likely to recommend the online community.
👎 At the same time, the survey told us that people are making less of an emotional connection with other members than before. The online community is not as effective at improving people’s sense of isolation and loneliness as it was in 2018. Interviews with customers also told us that the community can sometimes feel like a bleak place because of the number of posts about health or benefits issues.
🤔 The results also show that regular users of the community value it more. Regular users get more out of the community and feel more connected to their peers. People who look for friendship through the community generally find it. Members told us that they really value the ability to talk with and learn from people who are peers. But a higher proportion of people are now using the online community passively than before, reading posts rather than interacting with other members.
So what does this mean for the online community?
The research has brought up some important questions about what Scope and members of the online community think the community is for. One of the main questions prompted by the research is how Scope can support the community to be both a ‘one-stop shop’ for disabled people to solve problems, as well as a place for emotional support and social connection.
We developed some recommendations for staff at Scope to help answer some of the questions and concerns thrown up by the research. The main ones are:
To develop a Theory of Change for the online community: A theory of change is a visual map that shows what activities we do and what things we expect to happen as a result of those activities. Creating one for the online community will help us work out its goals and help us focus on outcomes for disabled people who use it. Outcomes are what we call the real changes that happen in people’s lives because of our work.
To develop a new community homepage when people are logged in: People told us they find it distressing to see negative discussions at the top of the page as soon as they log in.
To find ways to place more emphasis on the positive parts of the community: This could help people feel less anxious or negative when browsing the community.
To bring back the web links to the community from other Scope webpages: Different advice pages on the Scope website used to link to relevant discussions on the online community. These links disappeared when we moved to our new website. Putting the links back onto the site will increase the number of visitors to the community.
To test and improve the experience of using the community with a mobile phone: Most members access the online community using their mobile phone. However, people told us that this is difficult, so we need to look at how to improve this.
To consider bringing in a moderated chat function: This is something requested by community members and could improve emotional connections.
To test splitting the community into two areas, with one focused on problem-solving and the other on social connections: This could be away of better managing the tension between the goals of problem-solving and emotional connection.
To review the role of the community champions: Community champions we spoke to had slightly different ideas about the role and its purpose.
To explore alternative accessible ways of accessing the community: This might include easy read, audio or chat areas.
To test organising face to face meet ups for community members: This is something that a lot of community members are interested in.
To interview more members: We'll do this to understand how the community does or doesn’t help with loneliness and isolation.
What happens next?
We’ve shared our findings and recommendations with the Scope staff involved with the online community. We’ll now work together to prioritise these recommendations and work out which ones we can act on first. As changes are made, we’ll let you know. Watch this space!
Thank you to everyone who took part in this year’s evaluation – we really appreciate it.