Voices of Somerville Community Survey

The City of Somerville has launched a Voices of Somerville survey to hear from residents of all backgrounds about how the city can best recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and build an inclusive, equitable community where all can thrive together. This is the latest effort in Mayor Ballantyne’s ambitious agenda outlined in her inaugural address. The Voices of Somerville initiative is funded using American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars. 

The survey will run throughout the year to document changes over time, identify areas for improvement, measure the impact of our interventions, and allow new questions to be included in response to urgent and evolving community needs and priorities.

In just a few minutes, Somerville residents can have their voices heard on a wide range of topics about life in our community, providing valuable insights and ongoing satisfaction scores. The City will receive periodic reports with survey results and analysis, and these reports will be shared with the public. 

The survey is available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole, and Nepali. Printed copies are also available at City Hall, Somerville Public Libraries, and other locations throughout the city. 

Where can I take the survey?

  • Take the survey online. Starting June 2022, surveys will also begin to appear as digital ads on news websites, social media platforms, blogs, and apps. Here’s what the ads look like: 
  • Take the survey in person. Printed copies are available at City Hall, Somerville Public Libraries, and other locations across the city. Surveys will also be available at a variety of events and engagement opportunities throughout the year.

Screenshot of Voices of Somerville survey website

What questions will be asked?

The survey tool will measure resident satisfaction regarding local services and quality of life in the community, while also identifying key concerns residents want the local government to address. It generally takes just a few minutes to complete. Topics include affordable housing, health care, economy and jobs, transportation, public safety, and education. In addition, a rotating series of questions will be included for timely feedback on pressing issues. Initially, these will focus on how the City recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

What languages is the survey available in?

The survey is available in English, Haitian Creole, Nepali, Portuguese, and Spanish.

How will this data be used?

The City will use survey data from the community to better understand and respond to community priorities and local concerns that are impacting or important to residents. Since the survey is ongoing, the data also offers insights into how resident satisfaction is changing.

Can residents see the data and survey results?

The City will receive periodic reports with survey results and analysis, and these reports will be shared with the public. 

What is Zencity?

Zencity is a community-input and insights platform that local governments use to make data-backed decisions based on feedback from more residents. They use technology to reduce barriers to survey participation and gather input from more residents. The City has partnered with Zencity on the Voices of Somerville survey initiative. 

Why is the survey being distributed using digital ads?

Digital ads are just one of many online and in-person strategies the City and Zencity are using to reach as many residents as possible. Through these targeted ads, Zencity is able to assemble a representative sample of the community and ensure that voices that might not be included in traditional survey formats are heard. 

According to a 2021 study by the Pew Research Center, 93% of adults in the United States use the internet, positioning it as a modern “public square” for reaching and hearing from a wide variety of voices; the same research shows just how widespread internet adoption is across characteristics like race, gender, and community type, as well as hard to reach groups, like younger people. In other words, digital ads help us to collect feedback from a large and diverse sample of respondents and to hear from more voices in the community.

How do you verify respondents are local residents?

Zencity uses existing digital advertising networks to target digital advertisements, localized to reach each community. Those who see the ad and choose to take the surveys voluntarily provide their ZIP code. The combination of where the ads are targeted combined with the respondent’s self-reported ZIP code enables the assignment of a response to a community.

Survey responses are only assigned to a community based on an anonymous, voluntary sharing of generalized location information. It is not possible to assign a response to a specific location or an individual.

Is the survey anonymous?

Zencity takes protecting privacy and ensuring respondent anonymity seriously. All survey responses are completely confidential, and they do not collect any personal information that could identify a specific respondent (except, where applicable, an email address, for those that opt in to participate in similar surveys in the future). Zencity only collects the survey question responses that are provided, along with anonymous metadata, which are used to improve the quality of the advertisements. There is no way that Zencity can identify an individual from the survey responses provided. For respondents who opt in to future research, email addresses are not stored with survey responses and are not linked in any way.

Further, Zencity does not share individual-level responses to the surveys with customers, only aggregated numbers, summaries, or disaggregated and anonymized open-ended responses. Zencity removes any information that could potentially be used to de-anonymize comments provided. Finally, all survey responses are stored in secure, encrypted databases, using industry best practices

Zencity’s policies and practices are in accordance with the leading data privacy regulations such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The full privacy policy can be found at zencity.io/privacy-policy.

Is the survey representative?

Zencity collects a representative sample of opinions from the population in any geographic area surveyed while minimizing potential sources of statistical bias. Zencity uses proprietary technology to track the demographic representativeness of its samples in real-time and make corresponding adjustments to ad targeting to maximize representativeness. In communities where many residents are not native English speakers, questionnaires are available in multiple languages and reach out to potential respondents in their native languages.

Zencity uses the annually updated U.S. Census American Community Survey data to set response targets for each geographic area based on five different variables: race, age, sex, education level, and household income. Based on self-reported demographic data collected in the survey, they track the demographic representativeness of the respondents in real-time and make adjustments to obtain a closely representative sample.

Can one person submit several responses and skew the results?

Zencity’s survey technology greatly reduces the ability of a person to distort the survey results by submitting multiple responses during a given survey cycle. The City will alert residents when new questions are added and a new cycle has begun, inviting them to participate again.