Attention all Nonprofits: What Ever Happened to that Great Research?

November 7, 2007

I ask because, on so many occasions during my Child Advocacy work in recent years—most recently as the founder and editor of the non profit Child Advocacy 360 News Network—I have witnessed such good research on children's rights and child well-being, and such poor communication of the results, and such miserable follow up in leveraging the findings for the benefit of children that I have pledged to do my own "What ever happened to..." research on this major area of underachievement, and report it in these blog-like writings.

My challenge to Child advocacy researchers: Show us your battle plan post-press release. Show us the return on investment for children. It's time for true accountability.

Examine your own organizations. Do you underperform on the research front? I don't mean the quality of your studies and reports—but on extracting the high value that good communication and follow-up could deliver. In one case, I asked the Research executives and Executive Directors of three sponsoring organizations engaged in an important piece of work to tell me what happened as a result of their investment:

  • Who received the Executive Summaries? And the full Reports?
     
  • How many people received and responded in some way?
     
  • What interaction did they achieve with legislators and government administrators?
     
  • What concrete results came from their efforts, other than some good press, perhaps?
     
  • And, what happens next?

The response? Silence.

They exhibited no interest in the subject, and in effect stonewalled my kindly, certainly constructive, inquiry. What a waste!

I understand that some grantmaking foundations now require a satisfactory communication plan when they support research programs, and the cost of such plans may be built into the grant. That certainly demonstrates that I am not the only one demanding to know about the return on investment in such matters.

Yes, I am determined that we should all do better, and my intention is to pursue this reporting agenda with all significant research and survey investments by major child advocacy organizations in this country.

Some organizations are getting it right and can serve as models for the field. Take the short trip to Children's Rights, which has a very clear presentation—a great Web model, I think—of their recent Hitting the MARC study on foster care payment rates.

- Hershel
 


Hershel Sarbin is President and Founder of Child Advocacy 360, where you can read his full bio.

Hershel Sarbin

#

tags

5

Comments

If you&;ve got a comment, question, or idea, please share it by clicking Add New Comment above.

Caitlin Johnson, editor

Hershel you&;re right on target. Tons of money are spent to create research, but too little is spent to circulate it in all the ways, to all of the people who need to see it, if the ideas of the research are to be put into actions in thousands of locations around the country.

I feel the primary responsibility for this should be that of funders and the researchers themselves, but I feel non profits and volunteers could also take a role. For instance, I use my blog *http://tutormentor.blogspot.com ) to draw attention to research articles, and host a conference (http://www.tutormentorconference.org ) every six months where I invite researchers to send handouts, or to appear to discuss their research. If dozens of non profits in my sector were doing the same thing, and we were linking to each other in blog exchanges, face to face events, and social network forums, we could help draw attention to the research, while helping people use the research to give us help in applying the research in our work.

I encourage others to do the same.

I, too, am astonished at the lack of strategic thinking about how to disseminate research findings. I&;m on the Board of Youth Today (full disclosure). I am always surprised that when an important new research report is released that the organization (or more likely, the funder) does not purchase a one page ad in Youth Today to report the key findings and provide a link to the full report. (Or, alternatively, it&;s possible to include an entire report bundled with the newspaper.) Instantly, the report is in front of 10,000 people in the youth development field, the vast majority of whom are top administrators, government officials, foundation staff, and other key decision-makers.

I was struck by the accuracy of Hershel Sabin&;s article about publishing research and evalaution data. We have lots of it and have done a poor job of letting others know our results. I am interested in the answers to the questions he asks:
Who received the Executive Summaries? And the full Reports?
How many people received and responded in some way?
What interaction did they achieve with legislators and government administrators?
What concrete results came from their efforts, other than some good press, perhaps?
And, what happens next?

Thanks
Julie

Great! I sure hope you follow up, follow through, follow the leader or follow whatever it takes to get to the next step. There are so many good reports, like Hitting the Marc, that cause me to believe again that this time...surely this time...significant changes will occur to benefit abused and neglected children. And yet...
This morning, reading through the NYTimes series on Minority Foster Care, I was reminded again how there&;s always someone with enthusiasm, and little else, ready to grab on to some small piece of research and soar with it like a startled Ibis out of sight. The view for a moment is spectacular and yet...
Too soon there&;s nothing left but a breathtaking memory of pure intensity and determination, mixed with a sense of sadness at what might have been...
A Child is Waiting.
Take care...be aware,
Nancy Lee