Qualitative research lays the foundation for everything we do at Code for America. In our commitment to always put people first, research allows us to infuse human voices into our process and, ultimately, the products and services we create. It is fundamental to developing government services that better and more equitably meet the needs of the communities we serve.
Our research team often shares insights with the rest of Code for America staff via direct quotes from the clients we serve in a series called “Voice of the People.” These quotes serve as an important reminder of the stakes for services that see people as complete human beings, rather than as isolated “users” of a product. Today, we’re sharing insights into why qualitative research is so important—in this moment, and in general—in our researchers’ own words.
“Qualitative research allows us to understand more than just numbers. It reveals the complexities of everyday life. Our role as researchers is to listen and interpret the stories we hear without bias—to honor people's stories as a way to guide us forward.”
“As researchers, we have a profound moral responsibility to amplify the voices of those who have been marginalized and harmed by the very services we seek to reimagine. That work must be grounded in ethical, humane, trauma-informed methods that respect the dignity of everyone involved in the research process and deliver real value to the people who share their experiences with us.”
“Qualitative research allows us a peek into the lives of people we work with and serve—sometimes unruly and uncomfortable, and sometimes joyful and bright. Most often, it’s a mix of all that and more because that’s what the human experience is: messy and unpredictable. Only by understanding the details of why it’s messy and what is unpredictable are we able to co-create an intervention that meets the sometimes indescribable human needs of residents. Deep exploration and curiosity about people’s lived experiences bridges the gap between wanting to help and being able to help.”
“Whether good or bad, clients carry the weight of their own experiences with government services. With research, we have the ability to give the power back to the client. We are able to communicate and highlight a client's words, emotions, and experiences directly to those who can make change.”
“We live in a deeply inequitable society because it was intentionally designed to be that way. Through inclusive and decolonial research we can ensure that our work in dismantling systems is centered around the people most impacted by them.”
“We’re often trying to understand how people relate to or interact with a service or system within the context of their real lives. When people’s lives are disrupted or made even more difficult than they were before by widespread uncertainty or change, the best research keeps us honest; centering people in our assessment of a service, making connections across experiences, and identifying new or better ways of serving them.”
“Our work must always be guided by the experiences of those impacted by the systems we are trying to change and dismantle.”
“We are in this work for people—because we believe in their rights, their personhood, their value, and their dignity. We are deeply committed to listening, to centering the voices of the people we come to work for, and to questioning the systems that have long marginalized them. In this historical moment, our work of lifting voices and challenging traditional power structures is more important than ever. Research, conducted thoughtfully and humbly, has the power to make the change we all dream about.”
Want to hear more about how qualitative research drives good design? Join us on Tuesday, June 16, for a San Francisco Design Week event: Exploring Design Distortions in Government