After a 15 year career as an analyst and consultant, I’ve seen how some organisations get exceptional value from research and evaluation projects. I’ve also seen organisations evaluating for the wrong reasons, and Managers who just aren’t ready to embrace the process.

Here are the five readiness factors:

Capacity

Successfully project-managing a research project takes time and effort. At Patternmakers we ask our clients appoint a project manager to shepherd projects from kick-off to completion and implementation. It’s best that the project manager sets aside a half day each week through the duration of the project. This means they can coordinate meetings, provide feedback on deliverables, and help communicate the right messages about the project to stakeholders.

Creating capacity, and building it into your workplan, ensures that you can manage the project effectively and engage stakeholders to get the maximum benefit from the process.

Curiosity

At its essence, research is about asking questions, and seeking robust evidence to answer them with accuracy. Evaluation is all of those things, plus making a judgment or drawing a conclusion at the end of it. One of my mentors, Professor Roberta Ryan, taught me early in my career that if you already know the answer, it’s not actually research.

We’re looking to work with people that are thirsty for new insight, that don’t know it all already, and they are ready to open their minds to discovering new insights and learning new ideas. This is where the magic happens.

Candour

I believe that those who openly share their learnings with others are leaders. It can be scary to put our hands up and tell others about things that didn’t work. But for our organisations to progress, we need to cultivate a culture of openness, learning and reflection.

I believe that every program manager and director has something valuable to share. I also firmly believe that we all need a ‘critical friend’, who can tell it to you straight, while practicing deep empathy.

At Patternmakers we’re honoured to play that role for our clients and partners. And there’s nothing more refreshing than simply telling it like it is.

Commitment

If you think it’s about collecting data, you’ve missed the point. Research isn’t really about the data, it isn’t even about analysis or findings. The value comes from identifying actionable insight - and implementing it. This requires enormous commitment. It also delivers enormous value. That’s why our projects don’t end with a report on key findings. We work with our clients to identify opportunities, prioritise the most important actions and develop implementation plans. We also follow up to help see it through, and reflect on the impact, which to be honest is often extraordinary. But it starts with commitment to continuous improvement.

Care

There’s a reason Patternmakers established a specialism in culture, creativity and community. It’s because we care deeply about the arts, cultural expression, recreation and bringing people together.

I left the professional services world having worked with people and organisations with dubious ethics. Today, I’m very deliberate in selecting clients and partners that demonstrate exceptionally high standards of integrity and care for others.

We develop respectful, warm, long-term relationships with our clients, who we care for, and who care for us. It makes us want to jump out of bed each morning and bring extraordinary energy to our work.

If these factors resonate with you, you might be ready to embark on something extraordinary. Good luck!


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About the Author

Tandi Palmer Williams
Managing Director

Patternmakers’ Founder and Managing Director Tandi Palmer Williams is an experienced consultant and arts and culture research specialist.  

Between 2013 and 2015, she was Research Manager for the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts, based at Nesta in London.