Think Tank Taps Crowdsourcing for New Methodology

There is now evidence to support utilizing social media to harness large groups to help inform policy-making and other far-reaching decision processes. RAND Corporation recently released findings from early testing of a model that combines online technology and social media to conduct cost-effective data gathering exercises designed to advise planning and policy around current events or issues.

The system, ExpertLens, combines three methods, the Nominal Group Technique, the Delphi Method and crowdsourcing – a public request for input directed to a large segment of people, usually by way of social media outlets. This approach is expected to increase expert input as well as enable faster information compilation and analysis.

Innovation is driving new and better approaches to research design – my inner research geek rejoices! I especially love how concepts plucked from a social media phenomenon such as crowdsourcing are being used to improve think tank practices. My hope is that additional work is done around how crowdsourcing can be successfully (and reliably) used outside of the ecommerce and marketing arenas. In my opinion, the social sciences need not take a “wait and see” approach.

Pennsylvania Homeless Counts Jump in Some Regions, but Decrease Overall

According to a research brief from the policy team at the People’s Emergency Center, recent data indicate a decrease in the number of homeless persons in Pennsylvania. The brief, Report on Pennsylvania’s Point in Time Counts in Homeless Populations Shows Decrease, is based on the annual unduplicated point-in-time count (PIT) of adults and children in emergency shelters, temporary housing or on the street.

In 2010, the number of persons identified in the Pennsylvania PIT count decreased, as it had each year since 2007. The regions of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh had the largest amount of homeless people, but also experienced declines since 2007, while 8 other regions (including Scranton/Lackawanna County, Bucks County, Northeast PA and Northwest PA) in the Commonwealth reported increased PIT count totals.

The brief, which includes a breakdown of sub-populations among Pennsylvania’s homeless, is available at the People’s Emergency Center policy publications web page.

Instruments to Measure Youth Programs from Child Trends

Child Trends, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research center, just released an update containing research, instruments and guidance for measuring the impact of some out-of-school programs. The brief, entitled New Guides for Measuring Outcomes in Out-of-School Time Programs, provides links to:

1) a report on methods to help educators, service professionals and families identify and assist those youth coping with stress for the purposes of minimize risk for negative physical health and/or behavioral issues, and

2) a report on self-regulating (impulse control) of behavior, how to encourage the development of such skills and assessments to measure the presence of these skills in youth.

The Child Trends website is an excellent source of data and research studies on children and their development for service professionals, policy analysts, grant-writers, program developers, evaluators and families.