image area overall


In an assessment, the data picture that emerges from these different sources is then tested against resident opinion.

There are two ways of doing this:

  • Through community conversations, residents are asked whether the data paints a fair portrait of the area, does it leave out important issues, does it put appropriate emphasis on the different factors that emerge, what underlying factors in the history or current circumstances of the area explain the data?
  • A systematic survey can be carried by a specialist market research firm, and the data from this then scored alongside other data.

The advantages of the first option, community conversations, is that it is less expensive, and that the work could be carried out by resident or community interviewers. The second option, the survey, is more expensive, but more statistically robust, allowing opinions from a representative sample of the neighbourhood to be gathered.

3.1 Community conversations

The community conversation approach involves asking a number of questions about social sustainability in the area, and testing the initial data that has been compiled (see Stage 2). Interviews and group discussions can all contribute usefully to this. Group discussions can be through a focus groups convened for this purpose, or part of a formal meeting (e.g. by putting the topic on the agenda of a community forum or park friends’ group), or with a group of residents who are brought together by another activity (e.g. at a Children’s Centre or a support group for a particular issue).

It is important to make sure that, as far as possible, groups or individuals contacted cover the full diversity of the area’s population. It will be more difficult to contact some groups than others – e.g. people who are working long hours may have little time to take part in groups and activities; some older people may be isolated and spend much time at home. It is necessary to have a flexible approach, meeting people in the setting and at the time most convenient to them.

Click here for a community conversations topic guide.

An option is to build on these conversations by creating a paper version of the questions that could be left in places like the library or doctors surgery, for people to complete and return, or to work with a school so that questionnaires are put in children’s book bags.

Alternatively, or additionally, an online version can be made using a tool like SurveyMonkey can be easily used and accessed.

3.2 A residents survey

Social Life has created a residents survey as part of this toolkit. This covers all the key social sustainability questions that are relevant to the framework. It is important that the sample size of the survey is big enough to allow for analysis at smaller area, if needed. A sample size of 320 households in Beddington allowed the survey to be analysed to four smaller areas. One of the smaller areas that ideally we would like to have explored did not have sufficient sample to enable this comparison.

Here is the Residents survey standard questionnaire that can be adapted for different neighbourhoods. It includes the extra questions added for the Beddington pilot, in other neighbourhoods there may be other local priorities to be explored.

Click here to see the list of questions included in the residents survey.

To download the full questionnaire for the residents survey,


Stage 4 explains how to score and analyse the data.