Values Research

Values research can be conducted using various tools which include: online qualitative surveys, focus groups, in-depth interviews, online panels, and phone and mail surveys. Values research uncovers what people prize most in their lives and the means by which they achieve it. Characteristics of our communities directly impact our personal values and are inextricably connected to how we feel. These attributes are wide ranging and may include such things as crime, traffic, housing availability, employment options, scenic beauty, air quality, and friendly people. These attributes represent benefits or difficulties for people living in a community, and they impact how people feel about their lives, their communities, and their ability to live in a way that aligns with their values. In many communities, common values include: personal security, peace of mind, family love, belonging, accomplishment, and freedom.

ladderWhile people need logical reasons for making decisions; logical reasons alone will not motivate people to take action. Values research helps people understand that taking action will lead to the satisfaction of one or more personal needs or goals. A values based approach helps community members understand why the visioning process matters and the significance of their participation. This approach also provides the tools to communicate how scenarios impact what the community values. Armed with this knowledge, a collective vision can be developed that satisfies shared community values.

There are four levels at which the decision-making process operates. The graphic to the right illustrates the four levels that make-up the decision making structure.

Values research starts by understanding what regional attributes or characteristics have the greatest impact on quality of life through a series of "values laddering" interviews with key members of your community. These one-on-one laddering interviews explore in depth the thought patterns and associations people hold about a particular subject. From there, the research identifies the functional and emotional benefits that result when those things are present (or absent) in one's life. And finally, the research results are mapped to show connections between attributes and the interviewees' personal values.

After identifying the values, they are then "tested" by conducting a statistical survey with the public that prioritizes the values and helps determine which values matter most to your community.

In the next section we'll take a closer look at the values research conducted in Utah to help provide a basic knowledge of how values research is conducted. Professional assistance is recommended for conducting in-depth values studies. Comprehensive values research provides essential information and understanding into community values.

What's the difference between values research and a survey?
• Surveys tell you what people care about or want in their lives
• Values research not only tells you what people want but also why people care about or want it, and the words they use to describe why
• Without the why, you can't make your message personally relevant and emotionally impactful.