Evidence, evidence, evidence

I’m a big fan of evidence-based decisions. But the number of people who feel the same way I do appears to be on the wane. Whether it’s fake news, dubious think tank reports or unsubstantiated political claims, the idea of being able to support what we say and do with actual facts seems to have lost its appeal. Well, that’s not how we roll here at Sockmonkey HQ. And here’s what I’m doing about it.

Being a consultant is all about solving problems. But it can sometimes be difficult to know what will work and what will not. And just because something worked for one organisation, does not mean that it will work for another. So access to robust data and evidence, together with a willingness to seek it out, is vital.

I know from experience that finding such evidence can be difficult. When a project goes well, organisations are quite good about trumpeting their success. But they so rarely reflect on why it succeeded. And when things go badly, the temptation can be to simply draw a line under things and to move quickly on.

There is, of course, some great academic and practitioner research available on issues concerning organisations across the public, not-for-profit and social enterprise sectors. Even if some of it is hidden behind publishers’ paywalls.* But there’s not nearly enough. We need more.

For my part, I always try to convince my clients to let me come back after a year or so, at my own cost, so that I can see whether or not the assignment I worked on with them has had the desired impact. It’s a nice way to stay in touch, but more importantly I need to know if the advice I gave them or the work that I did has stood the test of time.

But I’m keen now to go further. So I’ve started to prepare a series of evidence-based guides, drawing on my own experience as well as on up-to-date academic and practitioner research, on topics that continue to exercise my clients. The first one – looking at academic workload modelling – is almost ready and I plan to publish it very soon. And I’ve already started working on the second.

I’d also like, though, to do some actual research of my own, perhaps working with academic researchers and my own clients, and to publish it in actual proper academic journals. Not just because my wife’s an academic and I’m incredibly jealous of what she does, but because I think it’s really important to use my work to generate data and evidence that can help others.

So watch this space. And if you have an idea for a research project or would like to collaborate with me in doing something new, please do get in touch.

* A big thank you, incidentally, to those researchers who publish their work under an ‘open access’ arrangement.

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