Key informant interviews are one-on-one assessments that allow you to gain insight about specific community problems from key leaders and stakeholders.
As with most assessments, it is important to identify and organize your plan of action before you get started. What community issue(s) will you address? Which partners and community members will be interviewed and how?
This post is a part of a 3-part series: Everything You Need to Know about Key Informant Interviews. Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss future posts!
Part 1 will discuss 6 tips for planning successful key informant interviews. Planning is an important step as you want to make sure you are prepared before facilitating your interviews. Having an organized process ensures a positive experience for the key informant (or participant) and interviewer.
Here are my 6 tips for planning a successful key informant interview:
DETERMINE IF A KEY INFORMANT INTERVIEW IS THE BEST OPTION
Think about what you hope to gain from your key informant interviews, the type of information you will be asking for, and how you will use the responses. Key informant interviews are ideal for gathering deep insight from key community members on a specific topic or a few related topics. Here are some examples of great key informant interviews:
- Asking community leaders for potential causes and solutions to a recent increase in youth-involved burglaries.
- Gathering information on food related issues in different neighborhoods to improve food access.
- Surveying faith-based organizations for barriers to addressing mental health issues in their community.
- Assessing the need for partnerships with youth at risk programs in your community.
Once you’ve thought about the type of information you’ll need, ask yourself if a key informant interview is the most efficient way to gather additional information. Key informant interviews take a lot of time so this important first step will ensure you don’t waste time using the wrong assessment.
GATHER AND REVIEW EXISTING DATA FOR THE FOCUS POPULATION
Conduct preliminary research to determine what existing information is available about the issue you plan to address in your interviews. It’s possible that another local or national organization has already asked the community their thoughts about your topic. Doing your research first will prevent you from duplicating any past or existing efforts.
Examine current data on specific community outcome indicators. This will help you determine what additional information needs to be collected.
SELECT YOUR KEY INFORMANTS
Be intentional about selecting the key informants you will invite to participate. You will want to select valued members of your community who are knowledgeable and can offer a relevant point of view on the issues you plan to address. You also want your participants to be active leaders in your community who are closely linked to the population of concern.
When you select individuals, include participants from diverse backgrounds and sectors in the community (nonprofits, business, government, faith leaders, service organizations, neighborhood associations, education, etc.). Also include participants who may have a variety of perspectives around the selected issue.
DEVELOP YOUR INTERVIEW PROCESS
Develop your interview process to ensure your interviewer is prepared and that you provide a comfortable experience for your participant. Here are three things to consider when developing your interview process:
- Determine who will facilitate the interviews. This person should be organized, have strong written and verbal communication skills, and be willing to engage with the key informant to develop a strong rapport. These skills will ensure your key informant feels comfortable talking freely about the issues being discussed.
- Determine how many interviews you will conduct. This will depend on the amount of information you are trying to gather and the resources you have available.
- Determine your interview structure and style. Any method can be used but it is best to consider the needs of your key informants. Depending on availability and time, it may be easier to conduct interviews via telephone, video, or in-person. Additionally, consider how long you would like the interviews to last. It is best to allot 20-30 minutes for each interview so you can gather enough information while also being respectful of your informants’ time.
PREPARE YOUR INTERVIEW GUIDE
A great way to plan for your interviews is to develop a guide that can be used to facilitate your discussions. You want to make sure your interviews go as smooth as possible. This guide can help to provide step-by-step directions on conducting successful key informant interviews. Your guide should include:
- A general script that can be used by the interviewer to help facilitate conversation. By creating this, any interviewer will be able to facilitate an interview.
- A brief introduction to share additional information with each key informant to include your background information, the scope of the project, the purpose of the interview, and expectations for the interview. It is also important to share how the results from the interviews will be used and shared, including details on how you will keep the informant’s responses confidential. This will help to establish rapport between the interviewer and the key informant.
- Key questions that reveal more information about a particular issue. You will ask your key informants these key questions to gain insight on the topic you’re exploring. The types of questions used can range from probing and general questions to get a broad understanding of the current needs and efforts specific to a community issue. They can also be more specific to help provide insight on key issues and discuss recommendations for solving the problem.
ENGAGE YOUR PARTNERS
Discuss the scope of your work with your partners and find a way for them to be involved. This provides an opportunity to establish and improve partnerships in the community. Your partners can also support you by assisting with planning your interviews, recruiting key informants, and providing additional resources and support.
I hope by now you are more familiar with the purpose of key informant interviews and how you can plan a successful one. Our next post of this series will discuss how to conduct a key informant interview.
Do you need help developing or facilitating key informant interviews? Schedule a free consultation to learn more about how we can help.