A few weeks ago, I e-mailed a one-question survey to approximately 600 people who are on a monthly e-newsletter list that I edit as part of my regular job.
The people on the list would generally be considered community leaders of one sort or another. The question was an open-ended one. Respondents could say anything they desired.
The results of the survey were rather intriguing.
I expected to receive between 25 and 50 responses because I gave the recipients only a week to respond. To my amazement and pleasure, I received 155 responses, some of them over a page in length. It seemed that many respondents not only wanted to answer the question directly, they wanted to explain their answer and discuss it. I was profoundly pleased by this development because the question has such complex subtleties and implications.
It is extremely tempting for me to comment on the responses and what they mean. I’m still mentally processing the reasons respondents said what they did. But it is not my intent to explain the results of the survey, only to present the results. I’ll leave the interpretations to you in the hope that some healthy discussions will take place about what you see below.
Not so simple
The first thing you will notice is that there were 18 responses that were difficult to fit neatly into a category, so they landed in “Misc.”
For example, the response, “liquor by the drink,” surely changed a community forever, and is an excellent response. It is just that it is difficult to neatly classify or categorize it. Such were the 17 other responses that fell into that category.
It is also important to note that had “opening or closing of a facility” been a single category, it would have been the No. 1 response. Instead, I broke out that category into types of facilities because that is the way the respondents presented their answers.
So without further commentary, the question and responses appear below. The number in parenthesis is the number of respondents in the category and the number to the left is the rank order.
And the answers are…
Question: Thinking about the history of your community, what is the single thing or event that changed your community more than anything else?/
No. 16 — Misc. (18)
No. 15 — Technology (2)
No. 14 — Natural event (3)
No. 13 — Government leadership (3)
No. 12 — Crime (3)
No. 11 — New facility — other (5)
No. 10 — Closing of a facility (5)
No. 9 — A person (7)
No. 8 — Demographic change (8)
No. 7 — Economic change (8)
No. 6 — Opening of casino (11)
No. 5 — Opening of college (11)
No. 4 — Opening of manufacturing facility (13)
No. 3 — Transportation (13)
No. 2 — A group of people (19)
No. 1 — Civil rights/racial issues (26)
Phil Hardwick’s column on Mississippi Business appears regularly in the Mississippi Business Journal. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.