A Participant Survey is a critical tool for gathering feedback from the people who spend time in or pass through a public space. It helps us understand who is in the space and what their opinions of the space are.
Importantly, your survey should reflect questions that the community itself is interested in exploring. If you are not from the community in which you are surveying, we strongly advise partnering with members of that community to design and carry out the survey with you.
The survey worksheet provided here is geared towards understanding social mixing in a space. It asks questions to find out who is there (based on neighborhood, income, gender, race, etc., geared towards U.S. contexts), whether they recognize other people in the space, how much time they plan on spending there, and more. The survey should be anonymous.
You can access a longer list of possible survey questions here.
In New York City, the Participant Survey revealed the different functions of two similarly-sized pedestrian plazas built by the Department of Transportation. At one bustling plaza in the Meatpacking District, Manhattan, only 20% of survey respondents reported meeting or recognizing other people in the space, and many described themselves as tourists visiting from other cities. Alternatively, at a plaza in Corona, Queens, 80% of respondents reported meeting or recognizing others, and a majority said they lived within a 2-mile radius of the public space. This data is helpful for city planners, designers, community organizations, and residents to collaborate on context-appropriate improvements for each of the respective plazas.
To use this tool, draw a mental box that extends 6-8 feet beyond your body. Approach every third person who walks through that box, regardless of their presumed demographic. Do not approach anyone who appears to be under the age of 18. If you are in an exceptionally crowded space, approach every fifth person. Identify yourself as a public life researcher and who you are working or volunteering for. Then ask if the person has three minutes to answer an anonymous survey about the social life of this space. Tell them what the data will be used for. Once the survey has been directly filled out by the participant, ask them to place it in a manila folder to ensure anonymity.
Our public life tools are free for all to download, use, and remix to meet your project’s needs. If you use this tool, we would love to hear from you!