In response to the growing interest in the health of natural resource-dependent communities, numerous methods have been used to monitor community well-being. However, many existing approaches lack the ability to compare well-being metrics across space and over time while maintaining community voices and perspectives in their own well-being assessment. This manuscript describes the development and implementation of a virtual methodological approach to gathering both quantitative and qualitative data about community well-being in natural resource contexts. We demonstrate application of the approach with commercial fishing communities in relation to long-term socioeconomic monitoring of the California marine protected area network. The approach involved conducting focus groups with commercial fishing “community-experts” in eighteen major California ports. Due to pandemic conditions at the time of data collection, focus groups were held online over Zoom, but the method could also be conducted in-person when health and safety protocols allow. The focus groups were guided by a well-being assessment tool, which included quantitative questions where fishing community-experts were asked to rate their port along environmental, economic, and social aspects of community well-being. An open-ended qualitative discussion followed the rating exercise for each question, after which participants were asked to re-rate the question to produce deliberative, consensus-based ratings. We describe considerations of and insights from the implementation of this approach. Future researchers and practitioners may want to consider the benefits of this approach based on two factors: (1) the mixed-methods focus groups provided a means to develop quantitative well-being metrics comparable across communities and time and introduced rich qualitative information about the context of and conditions in communities across a large spatial area; and (2) the virtual format of the focus group led to lower research costs, offered greater flexibility in scheduling, and received positive feedback from participants who communicated the benefits of being able to participate in the research experience from the comfort and convenience of their own homes. Even as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, researchers and practitioners may want to consider keeping virtual engagement approaches as a tool in their methodological toolbox, which can open up new avenues for connection and understanding.

This content is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.