Just as the survey has provided us with a fascinating picture of you, our readers, many of you have asked for more information about Footsteps and Tearfund! These few pages give an introduction to Footsteps and to what our readers think of it.
Footsteps is supported and published by Tearfund, which has just celebrated 25 years as an evangelical Christian support agency providing advice, finance, personnel and other assistance to churches and Christian groups around the world. Tearfund’s aim is to build up and assist local churches. It does not start or manage projects except in some emergencies or where there is no Christian group able to assist. Tear Fund believes the gospel of Jesus Christ is concerned with both the spiritual and the physical needs of people. It seeks to enter into partnership with churches and Christian groups around the world who share this belief.
Tearfund’s emphasis is on encouraging people to develop rather than structures. It encourages communities to be involved together in any proposed project and then to contribute towards it. Priority is given to projects which help the most needy in society and which seek to tackle the causes of poverty. Tearfund will not respond to the needs of individuals except through a church group.
Footsteps to Health
Plans for a Tearfund newsletter on community health care were first discussed in 1985, and funding was approved later that year. The newsletter aimed to support the Christian basis for primary health care and to be a useful resource for Tearfund workers and national community health workers. A committee was gathered and Joy Poppe was appointed as Editor. The first issue of Footsteps to Health was printed in 1986 with 1,000 copies and it was welcomed by many as an excellent resource. It was produced regularly for two years until Joy left to work in Nepal. A two year gap followed, during which only one issue was published. Isabel Carter began work as Editor in 1989 and a new committee was gathered.
A broader view
Since Footsteps to Health had begun, several other newsletters had been started by other groups concerned with primary health care. A survey sent out by Joy just before she had left had brought in many requests for articles on other aspects of development and also for more Christian content. Because of this a change of direction was now felt appropriate. The name was changed to Footsteps. The subject of health was now looked at in the wider sense, including other aspects of development - such as agriculture, water, sanitation and forestry. Group Bible studies were included and a general theme was chosen for each issue. The content was now aimed at national readers who are often reading in a second language, so the language is kept clear and straightforward.
A growing readership
Tearfund were keen to make the newsletter available in French and Spanish. The first French issue (Pas à Pas) was printed in January 1991 and the first Spanish issue (Paso a Paso) in May 1991. All issues are produced at three monthly intervals. A Portuguese translation will be available in 1994 and a Swahili translation in 1995. Unfortunately, earlier issues are not translated and are only available in English.
Growth in readership has been steady and continual. From an initial circulation of just under 2,000 in 1990, the circulation of Footsteps is now 18,000, of which 2,500 copies are in French and 1,000 copies are in Spanish. Footsteps is available, free of charge, to all who request copies as long as they are genuinely working to promote health and development. We welcome donations from readers who are able to contribute towards the costs of their copies - at present £5 or $10 a year for mailing four issues.
Sharing the vision
Footsteps aims to be a source of practical ideas and encouragement to Christians working in health and development around the world. We hope to encourage the sharing of experiences, both good and bad, in order to encourage realistic and caring development of the whole person, both physical and spiritual. Articles in Footsteps assume that most of the readers have little access to resources or funding, so content is very practical and easy to try out. The editor has personal experience of the isolation and lack of ideas, back up and resources which so many development workers experience. Our vision is for Footsteps to continue to improve and meet the needs of its readers. Tearfund have continued to share this vision and have provided enthusiastic support and all funding to date.
Footsteps is not produced from a large office with unlimited funding! It is produced part-time from an office in one room of the editor’s home in the north of England. Production costs are met by a budget from Tearfund. (There is no funding available for the many who continue to send in requests for help.) An editorial assistant helps for a few hours a week and we have recently appointed a language editor. The newsletter is designed by Wingfinger - a firm of Christian graphic designers in Leeds. A committee of sincere and enthusiastic people meets four times a year to give guidance, advice and direction to the editor.
1993 Survey Results
A survey form was included with Issue No 13 which was sent to just under 12,000 readers. The response rate was 30%.
The purpose of the survey
- Firstly, we wanted to find out what our readers think of Footsteps - the content, the type of articles, how easy it is to read and how much of the information is new to them.
- Then we wanted to find out what readers are doing with their copies - whether they are used for training others, whether material is copied, adapted or translated. We wanted to learn more about our readers and the type of work they do.
- We also wanted to build up information about readers who would be able to share their experiences in future issues.
- Lastly, we also wanted to find out about the type of subjects which you hoped to see in future issues, and any specific topics you would like covered.
The survey has been a huge encouragement. Thank you to all who have taken the trouble to reply. The volume of work brought in by the survey has been considerable. We apologise that dealing with the information and requests has often taken some time. The survey forms have brought in a huge amount of valuable information. You may be sure that none of it will be wasted! We would encourage readers who have not yet sent in their survey forms to do so, even if they are sent by surface mail. Late forms can still be added and the information they contain will still be used.
Most readers heard about Footsteps either from a friend or colleague, through other newsletters or from Tearfund.
Copies of Footsteps are widely shared. 95% of copies were shared with other readers. Very few (1%) were passed on without reading and hardly any (0.6%) were ever thrown away! Many were placed in a library or resource centre after reading.
Relevance and use
It was most encouraging to hear that over three quarters of those who replied (78%) use Footsteps for training and teaching in a variety of ways. Usually people were working with health workers and farmers’ groups, but use in church groups and training centres was also common. Most of these readers used Footsteps in preparing teaching materials, sometimes directly copying pages or diagrams. A surprising number (26%) were translating Footsteps - usually just particular articles or issues - into a huge variety of languages and dialects.
Most readers (87%) found Footsteps either helpful or very helpful in their work. Nearly half of readers added encouraging comments, mostly very enthusiastic and appreciative...
‘the most relevant and practical publication we receive with the added bonus of being from a committed Christian perspective...’
‘your newsletter is very small yet very useful...’
‘encourages us to know that the things we are doing and the problems we face are not unique...’
‘illustrations are very clear and well prepared...’
‘Footsteps always refreshes the mind and thought..’
‘I think it is great!’
‘the spirit of it is beautiful...’
‘when we lend copies they do not come back!’
‘Footsteps is the type of literature needed in the developing world - simple, provocative and educational.’
‘Excellent, encouraging, stimulating! Most exiting! An encouragement to myself in my teaching and enables me to keep well informed...!’
‘practical and simple content makes it easy to interpret and put into practice...’
Style and content
Nearly all readers found Footsteps either easy or very easy to read. Although the material was not always new, most readers still appreciated the way in which it was presented. When asked what kind of subjects they would like to see in future issues, readers gave a wide range of replies which reflect a fairly even balance for all the subjects at present covered. Many commented that although they had particular interests themselves, they really liked the wide range of subjects. All sections of Footsteps seem to be appreciated by most people - case studies and main articles are particularly useful to readers.
The majority (82%) felt that the Christian content was about right while 12% felt it should be increased. A small minority (4%) felt that the Christian content was too high.
We have far more male readers (64%) than female readers (36%). We hope to improve this balance with your help! Most are between 30 to 50 years of age and 60% have a degree. Again, we would value your help in telling people at ‘grass roots’ level about the availability of Footsteps.
Readers are employed in a wide variety of development work - 33% in health work, 13% in agriculture, 14% in development work, 9% in church work, 10% in management and administration, and 9% in education and training. Many readers, however, are involved with a variety of work so these percentages give only a general idea.
With the information from the survey, we now have a valuable pool of readers to draw on, ensuring that future issues will represent the distribution and interests of our readers more closely. Results from the question, ‘What subjects would you like to have more information about?’ will also enable us to make sure future issues are as helpful as possible.