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Designing and implementing Turkey's first social and green entrepreneurship survey (5/6)

Part 5: Did we reach enough organisations – and the ‘right’ ones?

In part 1 of this blog series I described the benefits of a social enterprise survey. In part 2 and part 3 I talked about our approach to identify potential respondents and the challenge of collecting a sufficient number of responses. In part 4, I reflected on how to set the boundaries and target the right kind of organizations for this survey. In this blog, I will share with you our experience with reaching out to our target organisation. And you may find a summary of survey results here.

1. How did we reach out to potential respondents?

In my previous blog I described the challenges of reaching out to potential respondents and the need to ensure responses from a sufficiently high number of organisations that matches our requirements. This is what we did:

  • First step: We put together a master list of social entrepreneurs based on information that was easily accessible to us (e.g selected members of the Third Sector Foundation of Turkey TUSEV, Sabanci Foundation Changemakers, Ashoka fellows in Turkey, UN publication on green entrepreneurship). We made a significant effort to populate this list, realizing that this would be the only way to be able to follow up with organisations and thus increase the response rate. We built a list based survey collector on survey monkey, the web based survey tool we used for this survey and then sent direct survey invitations to the 179 organisations on our list (58 green entrepreneurs, 121 social entrepreneurs).
  • Second step: We asked our partners such as Ashoka, Ozyegin University, Koc University and Bilgi University, Social Innovation Centre, to forward the survey invite to their network (the release of contacts to add entrepreneurs in their network to our list had not been possible mainly due to confidentiality concerns). In addition, we approached other intermediary organisations, circulated information on the project website, on relevant LinkedIn groups, and on TUSEV’s social enterprise website and newsletter.
  • Third step: In our survey questionnaires we used a snowball sampling technique, by asking participants to propose names of other organisations. There were 5 or 6 new entrepreneurs that we identified this way.
  • Fourth step: After four weeks, we sent a follow up email to those organisations in our list which had not completed the survey. We also made follow-up calls to 60 organizations to encourage their participation and discuss their eligibility and other concerns, if necessary.

We closed the survey after a total duration of 6 weeks.

2. How did we come up with our final sample?

We took a closer look at our respondents to understand in which way we reached out to organisations. Our respondents may be divided in three groups: firstly, there are those from our master list of organisations. Out of the 179 organizations we sent direct invites, 49 of them participated and provided their names. In addition, there were 32 participants who did not declare their names i.e. they may or may not have been directly invited based on our list. Apart from those, 18 organizations that had not been directly invited by us also participated in the survey.

We eliminated those responses of organizations that seemed clearly off the boundaries we had defined earlier (e.g. CSR department of a large corporation, government departments, private companies without social impact or traditional NGOs) or those who completed less than half of the questions or exited the survey early.

In summary, we ended up with 57 valid responses (see table below). The response thus rate ranges between 27.4% (direct invites) and 34.1% (if we assume that those anonymous participants had been on our list).

Table 1: Sampling details

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3. Conclusion

What are the limitations of this survey? It has been a challenge to reach out to the ‘right’ kind of entrepreneurs i.e. to limit the risk of including the ‘wrong’ ones and the risk of excluding the ‘right’ ones as I had predicted in part 2 of this blog series. For example, there are a few organisations who self-identified as social entrepreneurs but some would consider them to be traditional NGOs. I also noticed that we did not reach many of the young start-up social entrepreneurs. We had less participation than I had expected from awardees of social entrepreneurship support programmes at Bilgi, Koç or Özyeğin University, an obvious target group for this survey. Reaching out to value driven green enterprise also constituted another challenge, as this field is not well coordinated and rather diverse. Furthermore, many respondents showed significant reluctance to share (financial) information obviously fearing that it may end up in the wrong hands in particular with the Turkish government. In addition, we found small inconsistencies between the English and Turkish version of the questionnaires and misunderstandings of some of the terminology we used in our questionnaire.

Despite these limitations, I believe that this survey has been a success: firstly, this is the first time such a survey has been carried out in Turkey. We managed to complete the survey within a short period of time despite very limited staffing and budget resources (my colleague was working full time for 2 months and myself on average 30% of my time over a period of approximately 4 months). Secondly, the response rate of 27% is relatively high compared to social entrepreneurship surveys in other countries (e.g. 15% in a recent social entrepreneurship survey in Germany and 10% in Australia). With 57 responses the sample is sufficiently large to allow us to draw some conclusions on similar patterns and for the results to carry some credibility. I believe that such a survey should be carried out by an independent organisation on a regular basis. With the experience gained in this process, it will improve the survey quality and make the implementation of future surveys more efficient.