Survey it App!

Elizabeth Dean, known as Frances Meriman inworld, came to a very spirited Nonprofit Commons meeting last Friday, April 27 to discuss how her organization, RTI International, is pushing boundaries and breaking barriers when it comes to how they provide survey research, development, and technical services to government and commercial clients worldwide. Later on in the discussion, NPC members engaged in a brief brainstorming sprint to dream up some creative app ideas to solve food access and civic engagement issues. It was a productive meeting to say the least.

Back to RTI.

According to their website, the RTI was established in 1958 as the Research Triangle Institute, and since then, RTI has carved out a niche for itself in the areas of “health and pharmaceuticals, education and training, surveys and statistics, advanced technology, international development, economic and social policy, energy and the environment, as well as laboratory testing and chemical analysis.” One of the most interesting pieces about their work however, is their innovative uses of Second Life in providing their services.

RTI at the nonprofit commons

Elizabeth came to speak to us about some of the innovative ways RTI has sponsored several research and development initiatives to derive best practices for survey research in Second Life. “Our staff have tested a variety of survey methods in the virtual environment,” she said, “including respondent recruitment techniques, in-avatar interviewing, and self-administered kiosk surveys.”

This is how it works according to Elizabeth:

  • – Respondent recruitment methods include classified ads within Second Life, online user forums and blogs, word-of-mouth referrals, and networking among targeted groups. Other recruitment strategies include interactive kiosks avatars engage to receive more information on how to participate in a survey. Interested participants can also receive a link to an eligibility survey they can complete in their private web browser.
  • – In-avatar interviewing involves an RTI staff avatar conducting a scripted interview in the RTI virtual interviewing facility, much like an in-person interview.
  • – Self-administered kiosk surveys are also hosted in the virtual interviewing facility where an avatar interacts with an automated survey interface delivered at a kiosk.
  • RTI is also conducting studies on the utility of virtual worlds for conducting cognitive interviews between avatars representing the interviewer and the respondent, recruiting and gaining survey cooperation from hard to reach populations, and measuring sensitive behaviors. If you are interested in visiting RTI’s facility in Second Life, please visit their lab.

And now for some really great app ideas coming out of our NPC sprint:

  • -app(s) that help teach & link to urban farming/homesteading & cooperatives content
  • – an app that aggregate deliveries of restaurant supplies for small towns suffering with truck traffic
  • – an app to find farmers markets with recipes and info on the foods in season
  • – an app that tracks pot holes like: Fill That Hole UK
  • – an app to find local restaurants that serve sustainable green meals
  • – a city tour walking app that shows the routes how many calories you would loose and uses GPS to give facts about buildings and historic areas you pass
  • – an app that could connect people with spaces that are clear or with people who are naturally nontoxic
  • – an app that lets people chip in to provide shelter and food for one particular person for a month
  • – an app for carpooling that is like air b and b that has info about the person, with a geo-tagging component to connect people near each other
  • – an app to find the best place to stand when hitchhiking 

Do these app ideas get your brain juices flowing? Don’t stop! Send us more of your creative ideas at:

Written by: alebez