The importance of research and insights to meeting community needs
By Emily Berridge, Insights and Research Manager
It gives me great pleasure to begin working with Somerset Community Foundation as their first ever Research and Insights Manager. Honestly, I feel a little like I’ve arrived; I’ve been wanting to use my research skills to move into the charity sector for a long time. From my very first Sociology lesson in year 10 at Frome College and my very first research project about people’s views on the death penalty, doing research, reading about how to do research, and arguing about the best ways to do research (yes, really!) continues to excite me 20 years later.
I’ve taken a varied route to get here (aren’t they always the best ones?) and volunteering with clients such as YMCA, the Women’s Equality Party and the Liberal Democrats, and working for small boutique research consultancies, has reaffirmed for me one simple truth; every organisation, regardless of setting, needs to take a research-led, evidence-based approach if it wants to make meaningful impact and put its resources where it’s really needed.
Yet — and this is one reason why it’s taken me so long to get here — often charities simply don’t have the funding for dedicated research roles, relying instead on research volunteers or existing employees to take on that work themselves.
For community foundations the need for research-led decision making is crucial. Somerset Community Foundation is already doing magnificent work in our communities to direct funds and grants where they’re needed most. Through a mix of community outreach and good old-fashioned desk research, I aim to build a research and insights programme that helps us continue this work, to enable people to build stronger, thriving communities, and to make sure our funds truly meet specific, social needs here in Somerset.
And the best research always begins by asking the communities themselves. We don’t know best; the people serving our communities do, and they have the answers. Good research unlocks that insight, brings it into the open and helps drive social change and realise dreams.
I can’t wait to get out into the communities to meet you all. But for now, I need to familiarise myself with a new internal CRM system and Bob, the new coffee machine.