Photography by:
  • Clive Hassall

Quality of Life survey 10 year review

The GCRO celebrated the ten-year anniversary of the Quality of Life survey in 2019. This provided an opportunity to recognise and celebrate the enormous scope and value of the Quality of Life surveys over the years. It was also an opportunity to focus on areas of challenge and change, in order to develop strategies to further strengthen the survey and ensure it’s sustainability into the future. The Quality of Life ten year review project consists of two parts: an in-depth technical review of key aspects of survey design and implementation, which is now complete, and the preparation of a research report exploring the history and evolution of the survey. The findings of the technical review have substantially shaped the implementation of the Quality of Life 2020/21 Survey.

Technical Review

The technical review process was structured as a series of three expert workshops, covering the topics of sampling and weighting, survey management, and questionnaire and indexing. Workshops were professionally facilitated by Dr Tara Polzer-Ngawato, and attended by GCRO staff and a small group of 4-5 external experts. Workshops were supported by preparation of detailed briefing documents compiled through careful reviews of previous Quality of Life surveys, an international landscaping exercise, literature review, and practitioner interviews. Prof Mark Orkin was appointed as external chair of the review process. He was tasked with drawing together considerations from the process as a whole, and providing the GCRO with a series of recommendations to support the sustainability and value of the project into the future.

Following the completion of the workshops, Prof Mark Orkin prepared a comprehensive Synthesis Report, providing the GCRO with a series of recommendations covering all workshop themes.

The Synthesis Report, and other key review materials are available for download:

Expert workshops

The first workshop, on sampling and weighting, was held on February 14, 2019, and was attended by several of South Africa’s foremost experts on the topic. The GCRO hosted Prof Emeritus Paul Fatti (Wits), Dr Ariane Neethling (UFS and an independent survey sampling consultant), Prof Khangelani Zuma (an executive director at the HSRC, and responsible for sampling for the South African National HIV Prevalence, Incidence, Behaviour and Communication Survey), Nthabiseng Makhatha (DDG of Methodology at StatsSA), and Azam Khan (Methodologist at StatsSA).

The second workshop, on survey management, was held on 6 March 2020, and attended by expert panellists with a range of different perspectives on this topic. Experts were Prof Reza Daniels, a co-PI of UCT’s National Income Dynamics Study (NIDS), Isabelle Schmidt, Director of Social Surveys at StatsSA, Darryn Durno, an experienced provider of data collection services for academic and non-profit research projects, and Martin Bekker, who has been responsible for contracting service providers for large-scale survey projects for the Royal Bafokeng Nation.

The third workshop, on questionnaire use and indexing, was held on 5 June 2019. This workshop focussed on both the composition of the QoL questionnaire itself, but also on how survey results might best be distilled into an overall index measure of quality of life. The experts in attendance were Dr Benjamin Roberts (Research Specialist at the HSRC, and responsible for running their annual South African Social Attitudes Survey), Mr Niel Roux (Director of General Household Survey at StatsSA), Prof Talita Greyling (an expert on quality of life measurement and indexing at UJ), and Prof Paul Fatti (Emeritus, Wits University Department of Statistics).

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Data use and dissemination

As the series of technical review workshops proceeded, the importance of better understanding data use became apparent and a final, fourth workshop, focusing on QoL data use and dissemination was held on November 6, 2019 at the GCRO offices. This workshop was held outside of the formal technical review process, but was strongly influenced by the review process and learnings. The workshop was facilitated by Dr Alexandra Parker of the GCRO, who also presented an overview of Expert panelists included Mr Richard Gevers (Open Cities Lab), Ms Lynn Woolfrey (DataFirst, UCT), Ms Laura Grant & Mr Alastair Otter (MediaHack), Ms Shirona Patel (Head of Communications, University of the Witwatersrand), Prof Ruth Stewart (Africa Centre for Evidence, University of Johannesburg), Dr Carla Washbourne (University College London), and Dr Kim Ingle (South African Labour and Development Research Unit, UCT). The workshop was well-attended by colleagues from within the GCRO, other local universities, and both local and provincial government. Workshop proceedings, together with recommendations for the GCRO, are available in the workshop report, prepared by Dr Carla Washbourne, and available here.

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All four workshops provided robust discussion and debate, and an opportunity to explore critical questions from a variety of viewpoints. While identifying areas in which the GCRO can strengthen QoL moving forwards, they have also all uniformly highlighted and validated the quality and importance of the QoL survey.

Last updated: 19 April 2021.

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