Method for qualitative surveys

Changefactory Knowledge Centre collects, summarises, and disseminates experiences and advice from children and young people. The goal is to help make schools, kindergarten, help services, police, and the justice system safer and more helpful for children.

The method for collecting data is developed based on the participatory method used in action research,called Participatory Learning and Action (PLA). Children are invited to be part of changing the systems, that is why we call it the Changemethod. Different creative and visual tools are used to make it safe and exciting to participate in the qualitative surveys. Answers that are repeated by many children and young people in many places in the country become the main answers or main findings. These are not connected to analyses or theory. This is presented as knowledge from children in reports, advice collections, books, films, and podcasts.

Changefactory’s qualitative surveys are not considered research, but they still follow specific method requirements to ensure that we document children’s experiences and advice in a reliable way. Summarised knowledge from children and young people is a supplement to knowledge from research and helps make better decisions when services want to improve how they work and the results they achieve


  • Participatory method with a strong focus on making it safe for children to participate
  • Combines both qualitative and quantitative methods
  • Engages all children, including children who cannot/do not like to talk 
  • Uses creative and visual tools combined with dialogue
  • Systematic and verifiable, aiming to provide a reliable description of children’s experiences and advice

The themes for the qualitative surveys are decided based on wishes or requests from children, authorities, and professionals — or based on the need for elaboration of previous surveys. Themes can also be chosen where Changefactory has found little knowledge from children and believes it is needed.

A project group is formed, consisting of 1-2 researchers, 1 member from the Changefactory’s professional and education group, 1 member from the Changefactory’s political and legal group, and 1-2 young consultants, with experience in the field being researched and with additional responsibility. The project group drafts a semi-structured interview guide with sub themes and in-depth questions. Additionally, they create quantitative questions, which are yes/no questions that through the systematising of the answers help quantitatively present experiences.

Professional researchers or central professionals in the field of practice are invited to assist in determining the most important themes and questions. When formulating the final questions, Changefactory aims to ask them in a way that children will understand and they can relate to. Before the interview guide is finalised, the questions are assessed by young consultants and/or professionals who know the relevant age group.

The researchers at Changefactory are responsible for the qualitative surveys from start to finish. They map research and other knowledge in collaboration with the project group. They set up the qualitative surveys, send out invitations, conduct sessions, systemise and summarise the answers. Researchers have knowledge of, and background in, conducting qualitative interviews and processing and systematising data.

Children and young people are mainly invited to take part in the surveys, in collaboration with professionals and management in kindergartens, schools or help services. Ensuring a representative selection is easiest when inviting a whole class or a kindergarten group. CF expresses a desire for a representative selection to the services, but it can be more challenging in services. Tips on how to ensure representative selection are shared with services that wish this. After the surveys, children and young people who have participated have the opportunity to help disseminate the main findings from the surveys to professionals and policymakers, as “Pros.”

Both qualitative and quantitative approaches are used in the surveys. The qualitative method is the most important to ensure a range of experiences and in-depth understanding of these.

The qualitative approach is consistently used in all surveys. Researchers meet with participants in person, either in group sessions or one-on-one conversations. The interviews are qualitative, using semi-structured interview guides and a participatory approach. The questions asked are open-ended, but specific. The formulations of the questions ensure depth. Researchers mainly follow the children’s direction in the conversation. They share about themselves and respond to what the children say in a humane way.

The quantitative approach is ensured by including selected questions that all participants initially respond to. These answers are counted and converted into percentages or fractions.

Sessions follow a setup as described in the bullet points below:

  • Sessions are conducted without legal guardians or other adults who the children already know present. This is done to ensure that all answers are collected in the same way, and because CF researchers cannot know whether other adults might influence children’s answers if they are present. This approach is also based on feedback from children
  • Engaging tools are used to ensure that each child can provide their most important advice to the greatest extent possible. Tools may include different stations, mind maps, sheets of paper or post-it notes, illustrative drawings, photos, letters, or recipes on how things should be done, from the children’s perspective
  • The focus is on advice to the systems, not elaborating on personal experiences
  • Children are encouraged to talk about what is important to them. It is emphasised that there are no right or wrong answers, but that decision makers needs everyone’s honest answers to improve services for children
  • Researchers also emphasise the need for explanations from many children, and therefore repetitions, nuances, and new explanations are needed
  • If a child does not want to answer one or more questions, researchers reassure them that it is totally okay and up to the child
  • How the sessions go may develop differently, but researchers are responsible for ensuring that it does not go too far away from the starting point in the interview guide. They have to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to answer

Answers are summarised as described in the bullet points below:

  • Anonymous word-for-word transcripts are written during the data collection process
  • What the children have said is summarised in sorting documents, clearly distinguishing between children’s experiences and advice
  • Answers are summarised under thematic headlines created based on repeated answers
  • Quantitative answers are used to complement the in-depth answers sorted in the sorting documents. Percentages or fractions are calculated based on how many have answered the question
  • Researchers have the primary responsibility for writing the report. The main content of the report consists of the knowledge from the children, that is not linked to theory or analysis
  • The wording from the original transcripts is not changed far from the starting point, so that the descriptions in the report are as similar as possible to what the children have given. This ensures that the children’s opinions are not changed
  • In addition to children’s answers, the report includes information about the background of the survey, a method description, themes and questions asked, places visited, and thanking the participants. The report often also includes a description of national challenges and advice to politicians and authorities
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