Mixed Methods in VOLPOWER: What it means and why we do it

by volpower
5 years ago

In VOLPOWER, we combine a qualitative in-depth research approach with the bigger picture of a quantitative survey on volunteering and community building. The interaction of researchers and volunteers throughout the journey allows us to develop new ideas on the ways, in which volunteering contributes to community building and empowerment and how it can be fostered. 

Blog post by Marie Lehner and Astrid Mattes (ÖAW)

As Ilona van Breugel discussed in her blog post on co-designing, VOLPOWER is a highly interactive research project. This intensive interaction of volunteers and researchers throughout the project period enables us to deploy an innovative set of qualitative methods, which help us learn about the effects of volunteering in detail.

VOLPOWER Volunteers participate in various interviews. We use different interviewing techniques, such as semi-structured interviewing, group interviews and mind mapping. Each of these tools provides us with a different angle to our research interest, namely the relation of volunteering and social inclusion through community-building and empowerment.

While this in-depth perspective allows the understanding of the micro-dynamics of social processes in volunteering, we need different methodological tools to put these findings in a bigger picture. Thus, VOLPOWER conducts a large-scale online survey to collect quantitative data on both volunteers and non-volunteers. We then combine the survey results with the insights we take from accompanying the volunteers.

Mixed-method approaches counter the criticism that qualitative studies lack generalizability while quantitative research has limited explanatory potential. In social sciences, detailed and broad approaches to data collection are increasingly combined. When done thoroughly, this enables researchers to produce comprehensive knowledge on complex issues. The scientific results of VOLPOWER will provide such comprehensive views and bring up new perspectives in research on volunteerism and social inclusion.