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Building Connections and Conducting Interviews in Montréal: What did we learn?

Updated: Feb 14

by Sophie Courchesne and Nancy Yacoub, Research Assistants, Team Canada

A key facet of this project is to conduct interviews with community organizations. One problem, however, we had to cold call them!

We needed at least 10 community organisations that had no prior knowledge of our project to participate – so how were we going to make that happen?

We did a lot of prep. We held multiple meetings to practise the interview process, drafted email templates to have a consistent approach when communicating with organisations and then translate everything in French. We then sent out emails and made cold calls to organisations in hopes to reach someone in management and discuss the project with them.

Originally, these emails detailed the whole project, but most of our calls weren’t being returned. Also, the organizations’ websites did not often share a way to contact management directly.

While we had to be persistent, we also had to keep our ethical responsibilities in mind and respect people’s time and space.

After a couple of weeks, we reassessed and refocused our narrative for our initial contact phase by providing only a brief pitch of the project and specifically asking for one hour-long interview with management. We found that once we specified what type of involvement was asked of the organizations, they were more receptive to the project and to meeting with us.

Ultimately, we managed to interview 10% of the organisations we reached out to, most of which we had managed to reach by phone.

As for the interviews themselves, two of us attended those conducted in English, with one focusing on the larger narrative and one making sure we hit the necessary points.

For the French interviews, our bilingual colleague conducted them on her own. However, our interviews still consistently covered all our themes in the allotted hour.

So, while we had some teething problems, and our interview schedule slipped into the fall, we got it done!

Amid the initial panic of not getting through to any organisations, we realised that adding more information to try to convince them of our project’s potential wasn’t the way to go.

In shifting the focus from our project to their organisation we managed to build connections that took root and allowed for space to grow. In the end, less was more, and that is a lesson we will carry in all future interactions.

We look forward to jumping into the data and seeing what more we can learn.

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