Tuesday, April 21, 2009

after you have done the research

I was alerted recently of the importance of the virtues of having a well-organised system for reporting research findings, and making it available throughout the organisation.

I saw a summative exhibition evaluation report produced by one organisation that was so short in its shortcomings that it highlighted many things we take for granted. It fell short due to poor resourcing in terms of staff skills and time, and lack of useful software for data handling.

The 'report' consisted of a spreadsheet with summary data and graphs (mostly pie charts) with all kinds of errors. As a result, some of the data was misinterpreted when drawing conclusions for the specific exhibition. But even more important, there was no attempt to dig a bit deeper and look at audience sub-groups (teens vs adults; men vs women; people with children vs those without, etc.). And most limiting of all, there was no opportunity to compare the audience profile of this exhibition with other exhibitions, or with general visitors. And no opportunity to compare audience responses to various exhibitions or programs.

Seeing this, I see the role audience research can play in supporting organisational learning, not just day to day reporting.

What is needed for organisational learning? At least some of the following things:
  • dedicated audience research specialist who champions the information and fosters use throughout the organisation
  • good filing system that allows staff to identify past research and access it; this might be a catalogue with key words as well as titles, topics and dates
  • standard report guidelines or templates that establish professional reporting
  • reports include comparative data where relevant.

I picture a simple library of resources that builds over time.

Lynda has done a great job at the Australian Museum of establishing and fostering just this kind of resource. Maybe she can add some other points about her experiences in setting up systems that make research findings available across the organisation.


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