Methods: Concept mapping integrates qualitative and quantitative approaches in a multi-step process including group processes (brainstorming, sorting, rating), multivariate statistical analysis (multidimensional scaling, hierarchical cluster analysis), and group interpretation of conceptual maps (Kane & Troachim, 2007). It is used in participatory action research as a method to ensure that the voice of each individual is reflected in the final solution. A brainstorming session was facilitated with 24 individuals using a focus statement: “Describe what this coalition needs (resources, skills, attitude, structure, members, leadership, etc.) in order to be successful…” Statements were recorded (N=101) and used in the sorting and rating phase where the members grouped the statements into piles based on statement similarity, piles were labeled and rated according to importance and feasibility of each statement.
Using the Concept System proprietary software, a similarity matrix was constructed representing relative similarity of member's sorting statements. The total similarity matrix was analyzed using non-metric multi-dimensional scaling (MDS) analysis. The output consisted of a point map with each numbered point representing a statement. The MDS analysis was used as input for the hierarchical cluster analysis applying Ward's algorithm. The results of the hierarchical cluster analysis were superimposed on the multidimensional scaling results creating a cluster map, and go-zones that visually showed the statements in each cluster evaluated as very important and highly feasible to implement (Rosas & Camphausen, 2007).
Results: Eight clusters were identified, namely leadership, membership, meeting structure, organizational structure, public relations/marketing, critical activities, core values and sustainability. The final solution's stress value was 0.27, showing acceptable correspondence between the similarities and the map. Average cluster bridging values ranged between 0.13 and 0.71 with organizational structure showing the most cohesiveness and sustainability showing the least cohesiveness. Critical activities showed the highest rating in terms of importance (4.33 on a scale from 1 to 5), meeting structure showing the lowest importance rating (3.20). Leadership showed the highest rating for feasibility (4.19) with sustainability showing the lowest feasibility rating (3.64). A logic model was developed that guided the coalition through the development of healthy communities as well as an annual evaluation tool.
Implications: Concept mapping has shown as an effective methodology to create a structure and evaluation tool for a new community based coalition. The principles of participatory action research were utilized with this method to create empowerment for individual members on the coalition.