We have been following recent developments in the water sector with great interest. Regulators and representative organisations have all been actively considering what worked well in terms of customer engagement during the 2014 price review and, more importantly, what lessons can be learnt and applied to the next price review in 2019. There certainly were a lot of good things to report, not least the fact that, according to Ofwat, there were conversations with a quarter of a million people!

We attended a seminar recently convened by UK Water Industry Research (UKWIR) to brief the sector on the findings of… Continue reading

Research and engagement, as we know it, faces a number of challenges over coming years. Big changes are being created by a combination of the impact of ‘big data’, the rising use of passive monitoring, DIY research tools and waning respondent attention spans. We’re taking a look into our crystal ball at what all this might mean over the coming year and beyond.

There has been a recent explosion of data – according to a recent estimate from Google, we’ve generated 90% of all data in the entire history of the world in just the past two years. 2.5 quintillion… Continue reading

As researchers we believe (of course) in the value of independent research. Actions you take and policies you adopt may have clear objectives and intended consequences, but do you always know what the true impact is on your audiences? Internal data may not be sufficient to give you the answer and the following recent example of our work shows how wider and unintended impacts can be uncovered through careful and sensitive research.

We recently conducted a research study with doctors and employers of doctors. All the doctors who took part had been given a warning or had restrictions placed on… Continue reading

Suzannah Kinsella_w2Suzannah has recently joined Community Research as an Associate. She is an expert in designing engagement and dialogue that bring issues to life and help people influence decisions constructively.

Her work has involved people in decisions about the use of health data, the ethics of organ donation, the siting of nuclear power stations, changes to NHS services, mitigating the impacts of high speed rail and the impacts of the Care Act on local authorities and care providers.

Suzannah was previously Head of Public Engagement at the consultancy Office for Public Management (OPM) and Head of Engagement at the Central Office… Continue reading

The recent Professional Standards Authority (PSA) report, Rethinking Regulation, calls for wholesale changes both to the structure of and approach to regulation of health and care in the UK. The document doesn’t pull any punches, saying: “if regulation was going to improve care, it would have done it by now.” Just a month or so later, NCVO has published a hard-hitting report saying, quite clearly, that the current regulatory regime for charities isn’t working.

Value of regulators

The PSA report puts forward Harvard professor Mark Moore’s strategic triangle, which provides a framework for regulators to conceptualise their task. The… Continue reading

As researchers we sometimes face asking people about issues and experiences which are very sensitive, highly personal and / or emotionally charged. Nevertheless, if handled carefully, such subjects can be successfully explored and understood.

We faced this challenge when asked by the General Medical Council to undertake research first with doctors who had been through their Fitness to Practise procedures and then with complainants who had been through that same process from the other side.

Understanding the issues

The GMC wanted to understand how their processes might be improved from both perspectives. This was clearly important work, however we faced… Continue reading

Following on from our first blog article outlining two focus group tricky characters to be aware of in groups, here are the remaining three:

# 3 – The Ranter

Angry participants can be keen to attend discussion groups as they have a particular issue they want to air. Their views need to be taken into account, but it is important to manage their behaviour as it can frighten other participants and derail the session. It’s vital that they do not undermine your authority as the facilitator. The best way to deal with them is to:


We wanted to share some tips on how to deal with different respondent types when facilitating group discussions. Here are the first two:

# 1 – The floor-hogger
This participant just loves to talk – about themselves!
Whilst they will have valid opinions, you don’t want them to dominate the room or sway the discussions. Some tactics you can use are:

  • Actively ask others in the group for their opinions.
  • Remind them that it is your job to make sure everyone has their say (as laid out in the ground rules, which you agreed at the start.)
  • Angle your… Continue reading

We have recently been doing a good deal of qualitative research in an online environment and for those of us who have been doing face to face interviews and groups for many years the move to online presents both benefits and challenges. We thought it might be useful to share our thoughts and experiences with you about.

When to Go Online
One of the benefits of online qualitative research is that it allows us to undertake, for example, group discussions with geographically dispersed and quite niche audiences. We are currently talking to a university client about doing some research with… Continue reading