Three challenges every local area researcher faces

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Thursday, March 19th 2015
Author: Neil Wholey, Director of Insight


Often the challenges of local areas reflect a unique combination of local factors. Yet if we focus on a local area in depth this can restrict us as researchers as we then have limited time or resource to look beyond our boundaries for help. This is why LARIA and the current Local Area Research Fortnight that we are supporting are so important. They highlight the diversity of local areas but also enable researchers to bring together best practice and shared learning. They help us contextualise if local circumstances are indeed unique or are part of a broader issue. A key aspect of this is identifying when it is useful to commission new research, and gaining agreement that this is the right course of action. There are three challenges every local area researcher faces in trying to do so.

  1. How do you maximise the insight you get out of your existing research? Let’s face it there is a lot of research out there and key decision-makers probably think you have commissioned enough already! There are national studies on most of the major issues, existing local studies and shared best practice. It is difficult within an organisation to make the time to cast a fresh pair of eyes over existing research to see if there is more insight that could be extracted. But this is vital in making sure your organisation understands the value of this research beyond the final report or presentation and is willing to develop the insights further. To help any research company is willing to give advice and highlight the extra value they can bring. Westco is the same and we would be very happy to help you by reviewing the research you have and provide advice on the context and insight we can add from our unique perspective.
  2. How do you ensure the research you buy is value for money? It is a good start if you can prove that you are building on existing research and are only commissioning new research if there is a genuine need. However, it is also important to ensure quality and there are recognised standards you can use. At Westco we feel it is important to test ourselves against these standards and we have successfully been independently audited to the international standard ISO20252:2012 to provide a quality management system for market research services. We also joined the Market Research Society (MRS) as a Company Partner and now offer a wide range of research services. The local area research market is genuinely tough for private companies. These quality standards ensure you can have comparability in service but this often means that projects can be won on the basis of a couple of hundred pounds difference. If your procurement system allows it any research company would be willing to negotiate on price, especially if it comes down to a small amount. Therefore we are happy to guarantee, as I’m sure all agencies would also offer, that if you find someone cheaper that provides the service we offer to the same standard then we can match the price. You can then focus on the unique aspects of the service offered and the added value different companies can provide. 
  3. How do you drive the performance of your organisation using the new research insight you have commissioned? This requires an understanding of the audience for your research and the decisions they need to undertake as a result. Regardless of the robustness of the evidence the presentation of it is just as important. Research agencies need to know how the findings will be used and should be able to adapt their approach to meet your needs. We think this is one of our key areas of strength with our in-depth understanding of the decision-making process. Some of the best moments for me are when we have helped clients land the messages that come out of the research to ensure the findings are acted upon. 

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