Designing A Consultation Process for the Dairy Farmers of Ontario
Evaluating Progress Six Years Later
Over the past 6 years, the Dairy Farmers of Ontario (DFO) have conducted roughly 600 on-farm producer interviews with their membership. This process was designed as part of a structured means to solicit the attitudes, opinions, and perceptions of Ontario farmers on various issues and decisions that the DFO board were discussing.
The consultation process was initially developed by Dr. Steven Roche, of ACER Consulting. A Consultation Handbook was prepared and numerous meetings supported the DFO in establishing the process as an organizational step in decision-making. The process involves using formal qualitative research methods to follow a rigorous, repeatable, and scientifically sound approach to collecting and analyzing feedback for DFO.
There appears to be consensus that the DFO’s consultation process has served as a useful means for providing the organization with a better understanding of what concerns producers. The process has led to organizational change and demonstrable improvements in producer attitudes and opinions in the field. The DFO are now exploring opportunities to refine and strengthen the approach to bring further insights to support organizational decision-making and strategic planning.
Refining the Process
Dr. Roche was asked to review the consultation methodology, and consider how the DFO might revise the strategy to capture general producer opinions on the DFO, and more specific opinions on issues that the DFO deems to be high priority or simply of interest. In addition to exploring strategies to capture opinions on different subjects, Dr. Roche was asked to consider the sample size and practicality of holding consultations in order to make the process feasible for staff time, while still ensuring adequate scientific validity. The DFO was conducting 100 producer interviews per year, with additional on-farm visits.
After a thorough review of the approach and data collected to date, Dr. Roche formulated a number of recommendations for DFO, namely:
- To implement an alternating yearly sampling strategy for different topics
- To conduct preliminary analysis on the first 30 interviews as an indicator of “saturation” and determine if more interviews are needed
- Use of trained, third-party reviews of annual reports
- Use of verbatim quotes and participant feedback on interview summaries to improve validity of reports.
The DFO will continue to use this process with the help and advice of ACER Consulting in an effort to improve producer relations and work towards advocating and addressing the key concerns of its members.
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Dairy Farmers of Ontario