Social Life Questionnaire

The Social Life Questionnaire, particularly when used as one of a number of integrated tools, provides a way of assessing the nature of social life in a particular region, city or place. The Questionnaire is mapped against the domain themes and social themes of the Circles approach. In other words, the questions in the survey systematically cover both the four domains of the Circles of Social Life figure and the seven social themes chosen as representative of the complex tensions of social life.

The questions are written in such a way as to allow for comparative analysis across the different places of research. The Social Life Questionnaire has been used in many countries around the world with a common core set of questions, and with modular additions developed for the key determined issue in each locale.
(See Chapter 8 [3MB] of Urban Sustainability in Theory and Practice for an extended treatment of this tool).

The questionnaire also lends itself to being extended with context-specific variables. For example, when working in Timor Leste on livelihoods we developed a module of additional questions on food production and food security.

To view the questionnaire template, please click here (note: you will be directed to another site). As with the rest of the content on this site, it is distributed under a Creative Commons license.

Strengths of Qualitative Questionnaires

  • When coupled with other methods, despite all the limitations of bench-marking, questionnaires can provide a basis for comparability across diverse communities. Such comparisons can in turn be provocations for further diagnosis and action.
  • Qualitative questionnaires provide community members with a quantification of their sense of sustainability. This can not only be contrasted with the responses from other communities, but also with other objective and subjective sustainability quantifications — levels of air pollution, Gross Domestic Product, corruption or psychological wellbeing assessments, for instance. Such contrasts can provide both internal members and external agents with advanced warnings of potential risks and threats.
  • Qualitative questionnaires can also provide a basis for longitudinal comparison.

In attempting to build upon these strengths, we developed the questionnaire using the following criteria:

  1. Variable articulation
    That the facets of social life (the variables) that are being measured are clearly articulated prior to the questions being formulated.
  2. Variable mapping
    That the different variables in the questionnaire can be mapped against each other
  3. Construct validity
    That the constructed variables which sit behind the questions can stand up to the test of being separately analysed as measures of the quality of social life.
  4. Construct comprehensiveness
    That the constructed variables taken collectively add up to a holistic sense of social life.
  5. Interpretative reliability
    That the formulation of the questions is sufficiently clear to be reliably interpreted by a broad range of respondents, across different locations, cultural backgrounds, and times.
  6. Subjective-objective comparability
    That the subjective perceptions of respondents about their main ‘community’ relate to other measures of the quality of their social lives.
  7. Sampling flexibility
    That the questionnaire works across a range of sampling forms adopted in different settings, including convenience, snowball, purposive and cluster sampling, before the statistical comparability between those setting breaks down.

History of the Social Life Questionnaire

The Social Life Questionnaire was first developed and administered to a number of rural and urban communities in Victoria, Australia, in 2006. Over the following years it has been further administered to a number of diverse communities in the Southeast Asian, South Asian and Middle Eastern region, including Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste, Sri Lanka, India, and Israel/Palestine, as well as Cameroon. The sites thus crossed the Global North/South divide, and the questions were formulated to make sense in cross-cultural contexts. While using a similar apparatus to numerous other surveys, the aim was not to assess community sustainability in a benchmarking or simple comparative fashion.

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