The Peculiarity of Interviewing People about Winter in the middle of Summer

I knew going into this project that the most challenging part (the “stretchiest” part, if you will) of my Stretch Experience would likely be conducting interviews.

So far, this hypothesis has been proved correct. Interviews are hard! I’ve been interviewing experts I deeply admire and respect but whom I also find intimidating, and there’s nothing to make you awkward like being intimidated. Additionally, there is the challenge of trying to guide the conversation in line with my objectives and allowing participants to contribute openly. I am aware of trying not to lead them to pre-determined answers but also knowing the kinds of answers that will be useful for my objectives. It’s a lot of things to think about, all while trying to actually pay attention to the interview. I found knowing I only get to do each interview once additionally stressful. After almost every interview, I’ve felt I could have done things much better if I’d only had a second chance, but sadly there are no practice rounds. Fortunately, conducting multiple interviews means I’ve always had an opportunity to apply what I learnt and (I like to think) I’ve improved with each one.

The level of formality in an interview was also something I found challenging. I kept catching myself almost saying (or actually saying) something that took the conversation into something more casual and while that was great for an open and honest communication, I think I sometimes risked leading my interview participant a particular answer or demonstrating my knowledge rather than getting them to share theirs. There was also the curious feeling that came with interviewing people on warm summer days (sometimes immediately after their return from a summer vacation) about the very real threat winter poses to homeless peoples’ health.

Pictures my supervisor took of me stressing out the day before my first interviews

All this being said, I’m also aware that this has only been the most challenging element so far. It’s possible that as I move forward, I’ll find integrating the results from my interviews into a policy context more difficult. Approaching the planners at the City of Edmonton and trying to pitch my ideas to them will certainly be scary. And time is running out; selecting a project that required me to work around multiple people’s schedules has posed many logistical challenges. For example, I’ve often received auto-replies to my interview requests informing me the person I wish to speak to is away until late August or even September.  Moving forward, and closer to my project end date, these types of logistical challenges become more acute. But I’m optimistic and excited to work on the next phase of my project: applying the results of my interviews to policy.

Thanks for reading,

Madeleine Stout

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