During my internship at South Central Community Family Service Centre (SCCfsc), I conducted a qualitative research to document the Family Enabler Scheme, which is a scheme currently under a pilot study. The scheme aims for Enablers to journey with Members out of poverty and bring about transformative change to their lives. An Enabler is a person who can contribute to the improved well-being of a Member by providing financial support (tuition fee sponsorship, accommodation fees, transport fees, allowances, etc), opportunities (employment and internship opportunities), and relational support (advice, guidance, support, motivation). A Member is a person from the vulnerable low income community that SCCfsc serves.
During this internship, I conducted 12 face-to-face interviews with relevant stakeholders. With practice, I learnt some important interview techniques. I discovered that it was more suitable for interviews to be conducted in a semi-structured manner, with a list of guided questions prepared, but with questions modified as appropriate depending on how the interview proceeded. For each different stakeholder (Enabler, Member, Social Worker), I prepared a different set of questions. I ensured that all sets of questions covered essential aspects of my study, which included guiding principles of the scheme, Member criteria, Enabler criteria, Social Worker criteria, matching considerations, engagement features and desired outcomes. These sets of questions guided me and made certain that the interviews I conducted would be holistic, regardless of the stakeholder involved. At the same time, I modified interview questions as the interview progressed, depending on the interviewee’s responses. For example, when I received a negative reply upon asking Social Workers whether they had suggested any of their Members to be on the scheme, I would probe them further, asking them for reasons. In fact, it was important to sometimes challenge the interviewees to think deeper by being the devil’s advocate. For example, when Social Workers cited reasons such as Members not being motivated enough to be on the scheme, I would ask whether being very motivated was a necessary criteria to be met. Conducting interviews in a semi-structured manner hence allowed me to obtain richer data with more varied responses and deeper insights.
One challenging aspect of conducting qualitative research was the analysis of data collected. After 12 interviews, I had obtained plenty of data, however not all of which were relevant to my study. To sort the information, I created separate documents for each different aspect of my study (guiding principles, Member criteria, etc), then I looked through each interview transcript and extracted the relevant segments to insert into each document. Within each document, I also created subheadings to further organize the data. This greatly facilitated my report writing later on, because I could easily analyze the data just by referring to the appropriate document and I could also directly quote my interviewees in the report.
Lastly, one memorable takeaway from my internship was applying a theoretical framework to the real life setting. I was tasked to develop a conceptual framework for the scheme. I believe this framework is important to keep all stakeholders aligned with the intended purpose of the scheme, especially as the scheme expands and involves more parties. I referred to a theoretical model from an academic article on intervention practices in a clinical setting, which was not directly relevant to the scheme, and managed to modify and adapt it for this scheme in particular. To me, it was exciting how theories from academic research papers could be applied to the work setting with some critical thought.