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From Opinion to Data: Undertaking Empirical Research in a Controversial Public Policy Context

By: , & Published: 2019 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 2
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Private Ancillary Funds are Australian endowed philanthropic foundations that exist for public benefit purposes but are privately funded and controlled. However, with discretionary public reporting and few regulatory obligations, Private Ancillary Funds have been criticized for their absence of public accountability. This case study explores the choice of qualitative research methods using an abductive paradigm, and the implications of that choice in conducting the first empirical research in an influential but controversial public policy field. Findings from 10 semi-structured interviews with Private Ancillary Fund managers and trustees revealed that Private Ancillary Funds choose to voluntarily hold themselves accountable primarily for internal reasons relating to their values, mission, and purpose. Reflective insights are offered on the foci, challenges, and practicalities of inaugurating an empirical base for discourse in a field where opinion has previously dominated.

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