News & Notes
Read the official press release here.
Read our news post announcing the merger.
Read Peter Linett’s personal post about the transition.
Wait, what’s happening to my favorite arts & culture research firm?
In a nutshell, Slover Linett is becoming part of a larger, highly respected research organization called NORC at the University of Chicago. Our whole Slover Linett team is moving over together, and we’ll continue providing rigorous, customized, and equity-focused research and evaluation services to all kinds of arts, culture, and community organizations. The only difference will be that we’ll have exciting new tools, deeper resources, and additional brilliant colleagues to bring to that work, benefitting both our clients and the broader field. Slover Linett’s name and mission will continue within NORC.
What is NORC? And do they care about arts, culture and community research?
NORC is a nonprofit research organization founded in 1941 by social scientists from the University of Chicago. The initials originally stood for National Opinion Research Center, although these days NORC does so much more than opinion research and works internationally. So most people now pronounce “NORC” as a single word rather than spelling out the letters. The organization is now independent but still affiliated with the University of Chicago. You’ve probably seen the name in the media in connection with large national research studies, often for federal agencies or in partnership with eminent scholars, and perhaps most visibly in connection with the AP–NORC Center polls. NORC is widely respected for rigorous, independent research, evaluation, and analysis that inform public policy and societal progress.
Yes — NORC has a longstanding and recently growing commitment to the arts and culture field. In fact, its embrace of Slover Linett is all about deepening that commitment and providing even more resources and tools to help cultural organizations understand their communities and become more inclusive and relevant. For example, the NORC team is currently engaged in equity-driven research studies with the Mellon Foundation and First Peoples Fund — all independently of Slover Linett — and has done important arts work in the past with the Poetry Foundation, Irvine Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, and National Endowment for the Arts, among other cultural clients.
That mutual interest has also led NORC and Slover Linett to collaborate over the years, including on that Irvine Foundation project (about cultural participation in rural and economically challenged communities in California) and, more recently, on aspects of Slover Linett’s pandemic-era, large-scale research partnership with LaPlaca Cohen and Yancey Consulting: Culture + Community in a Time of Transformation: A Special Edition of Culture Track.
Does NORC share Slover Linett’s equity and justice goals—and its “critical eye” on the legacies and practices of the nonprofit cultural sector?
Yes. In fact, The Bridge at NORC, which is the department that Slover Linett will be based in, is the home of NORC’s many societal, educational, and equity and justice research projects, as well as its arts and culture work — all of which is meant to inform equitable, system-level change in complex social and cultural ecosystems. The Bridge is also where NORC’s Center on Equity Research was founded in 2021, with the goal of ensuring that all of NORC’s research, evaluation, and analysis work uses equitable methods at every stage of the process. All of us at Slover Linett are eager to collaborate with the Center on Equity Research team and other NORC researchers working in culture and culture-adjacent areas.
(The Bridge is NORC’s connection between social research and on-the-ground practice, as well as between NORC and the scholars and experts at the University of Chicago and other colleges and universities.)
Will Slover Linett still do “work for hire,” designing and conducting research for cultural organizations like mine? You’re not becoming an academic or policy center, are you?
Correct: We will continue working as consultative thought partners with our clients, funders, and collaborators around the U.S., providing research and evaluation services that are responsive to your unique communities and goals. We’ll still prioritize projects that center equity, inclusion, co-creation, and transformation. And while we hope to continue contributing to the broader national picture of cultural engagement and collaborating with scholars and policymakers, we’re by no means becoming an academic research center. We’ll remain fully dedicated to applied, real-world research in organizations, communities, and ecosystems.
What will Slover Linett be called now? Is the name disappearing?
The change is simple: Slover Linett Audience Research Inc. is now Slover Linett at NORC. Keeping the name, with its 24-year history of insight and thought partnership in the arts and culture field, signals our — and NORC’s — commitment to supporting and extending Slover Linett’s practice with new tools and resources.
How will this merger benefit your clients and the wider field?
By combining both organizations’ strengths in arts, culture, and community research to provide even more powerful insights and tools for the field — and especially for changemakers working toward greater equity, justice, and impact in their communities. Slover Linett will be able to take on larger and more ambitious projects and bring new resources to its clients and funders. Those resources include AmeriSpeak, NORC’s rigorously representative panel of research participants across the U.S.; advanced statistical and sampling techniques; new data-visualization and mapping tools; and intersectional collaborations with research experts working in overlapping social domains. Together, Slover Linett and NORC will be able to explore new, more inclusive research methods and continue broadening the definitions and assumptions around cultural participation in the U.S. through in-depth, action-oriented research.
Does it matter that NORC is a nonprofit, whereas Slover Linett has been a for-profit research firm?
NORC at the University of Chicago is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, like most of Slover Linett’s clients. Its tagline — “Research you can trust” — conveys its dedication to providing rigorous, independent social research at every level, from ongoing federally funded studies to on-the-ground work with small community organizations. If you’ve followed Slover Linett over the last several years, you know that we’ve increasingly become a mission-driven enterprise, too. We still work in service to our clients, of course, but we’ve also embraced a nonprofit mindset as we strive to support the overdue transformation of the arts & culture sector through our work. Both our client responsiveness and our broader social purpose will continue as we join this like-minded nonprofit organization.
Will you still be based in Chicago and working nationally?
Yes and yes! Our staff will move from our longtime office on Chicago’s north side, where they’ve been working on a hybrid basis since the pandemic, to the offices of The Bridge at NORC, which are located on the University of Chicago campus in Hyde Park. NORC and Slover Linett share a longtime dedication to supporting Chicago-based cultural and community organizations and look forward to finding new ways to serve the local ecosystem through collaborative, equity-focused research. And of course, both Slover Linett at NORC and other research experts at the Bridge will continue working with arts and culture organizations and foundations around the U.S.
Will Slover Linett’s staff now be NORC employees? And who will lead the practice now that it’s part of NORC?
Yes, the whole Slover Linett team of 11 people (not including founder Cheryl Slover-Linett, who has been in an advisory role for the last decade) is moving over to NORC. Peter Linett will continue to be closely involved (see next question) and the other ten professionals will be full-time, Chicago-based staff members.
Slover Linett’s existing management circle — Tanya Treptow, PhD, director of research; Cory Garfin, vice president; and Madeline Smith, vice president — will continue to lead the practice as a research center within NORC. Specifically, Slover Linett at NORC will be part of The Bridge at NORC, reporting to Michael Reynolds, PhD, senior vice president and director of The Bridge.
What will Peter Linett’s role be in this new era? Is he retiring?
No, Slover Linett’s co-founder Peter Linett is not retiring! He’ll continue to help guide the practice and shape its evolution in this new era. Now with the title of Senior Fellow, Peter will work closely with the whole Slover Linett team and with Michael Reynolds and his colleagues at The Bridge at NORC. Peter will remain actively involved in strategy, vision, mentoring, writing, speaking at conferences, and developing proposals, and he’ll continue to be part of key steps in many of our projects. Peter can always be reached at email@example.com and would welcome the opportunity to talk with you about this exciting transition.
My organization is in the middle of a project with Slover Linett. What will change?
Very little! You’ll have the same project team working with you on our research or evaluation engagement, and you’ll get the same thoughtful and rigorous methods, findings, and reports that you’ve come to expect from us. Starting in the coming weeks, we’ll have access to a wider range of tools, processes, resources, and research and analysis experts to bring to our current and future projects with you and your colleagues. Only the administrative aspects of the projects will change, as the Slover Linett team works with specialists at NORC to develop new standard contracts, budget frameworks, invoices, etc.
Will you still work with small arts & culture organizations? What about small projects for mid-sized and large organizations?
Absolutely. We’re acutely aware that many of the smallest and most under-resourced cultural organizations in the ecosystem are also the ones that are the most community-connected, inclusive, and effective at meeting needs and changing lives. Slover Linett has always enjoyed working with such organizations, and we’ve learned that research often means something different for small arts and culture organizations than it does for mid-sized and large ones, given their differing missions and relationships with their participants. We’ve been heartened to see more foundation grants going to smaller, more community-based organizations in recent years. As Slover Linett at NORC, we’ll continue working across the size spectrum and serving all kinds of leaders and practitioners who are dedicated to making a difference and increasing equity in and through the arts and culture.
I still have questions. Whom do I contact now?
We’d love to talk with you about this exciting transition. Please reach out to any of your current Slover Linett contacts at their usual email address or phone number. Or contact co-founder Peter Linett at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (773) 655-3696. You’re also welcome to reach out to Michael Reynolds, director of The Bridge at NORC, where Slover Linett will now be based, at email@example.com or (773) 256-6073.