When organisation approach us to carry out market research activities, one of the biggest challenges they face is that if relevance. There’s often a disconnect with what they are offering and what their clients expect. There are others out there offering the same services with more attractive propositions. Some of the organsiations we work with are looking for opportunities to step into a leadership role in the community. Many are looking for opportunities to focus on activities that will attract funding or generate income. They know what needs to be done but don’t have the expertise or manpower to carry out the work.
Taking responsibility for finding out what your community is looking for is an en,lightening experience not just for your organisation but also for your community and potential clients. Getting out there and talking to people creates interest in your organisation. Being open to negative feedback should be embraced as once people get their thoughts into the open they are curious to monitor any changes as a result. They become interested.
An example of the power of community research is that of a community that had been labelled and targeted by government as a low socio economic neighbourhood. It had been surveyed to death. Services were put in place but very few people got involved. The local community house wanted to get more people through the doors and programs happening but there had recently been issues that were dividing the community. Our challenge was to find out what this community wanted and to reconnect them with the community house. We succeeded and learnt some valuable lessons in the process. Firstly, people respond to humorous invitations – they were curious enough to leave their houses to find out for themselves what was going on. When we gained their trust, they recounted to us stores of better times. The community memory was stronger than the recent problems, and by tapping into these warmer memories, we were able to make the connection with the community house.Another lesson was the power of the community mental model. Dig deep and you will hear what they really want inst always obvious at first glance. When you know what the community really want, then you can shift their objections.
In another example, a training organisation was losing ground to competition from outside the area. It had not made changes to it’s offerings for a few years and needed to know what businesses and individuals wanted. Amazingly the local community (business and residents) felt very strongly that their local training provider should be supported but weren’t aware of what their local training provider offered. Some didn’t know they existed. Others were frustrated that the training provider didn’t offer what was needed. The findings were gold, not just in terms of feedback and ideas for programs, but also that local businesses began to support the resource on their doorstep.
Doing your community research isn’t just about finding out needs, it’s about building lasting relationships.