At its inception in 2008, StatNet had 20 participants at its first meeting.
This study draws primarily on participant observation supplemented by interviews with individuals involved in StatNet.
In this case, participant observation involved direct observation of StatNet meetings and special events, participation in informal conversations and group discussions during and after StatNet meetings, and a review of notes, documents, listserv postings, and post-meeting survey data.
Informants were purposively selected because of their knowledge of municipal government, involvement in StatNet, and their ability to articulate understandings of their experiences (Lofland & Lofland, 1995).
Although interviews covered the current state of data use broadly this paper focuses specifically on StatNet. Informants were asked about how information is gathered to inform their work, what groups they seek information from, who they contact most for advice, and which municipalities are most similar to them.
Notes, memos, StatNet documents, post-meeting surveys, listserv emails, and verbatim interview transcripts were then coded using open and axial coding (Strauss & Corbin, 1998).
As one interview participant said, "you tend to talk to communities where you know people." Affiliation with StatNet allows members to connect by providing access to informal communication through structured and unstructured exchanges, anecdotal sharing and storytelling, modeling by experienced members, and multi-modal connection opportunities.
First, StatNet meetings allow participants to construct an unofficial list of who knows what.
It is also common to see participants exchange business cards, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses and make plans to connect in the weeks after the StatNet meeting.
Second, StatNet provides access to a listserv where participants pose questions and pass information to the group.
Participants also post job announcements, follow-up materials on something discussed during a StatNet meeting, grant funding opportunities, and information on performance measurement successes in their own municipality.
that's another great way, in terms of electronic media, there's a StatNet email distribution and very often I'll post a question, hey, has anyone gone out to bid for this, do they have an rfp that I can take a look at, use as a resource, or if you have a question, how did somebody budget for this particular item and which department is it in, do you centralize [or] decentralize.