By: Peter Linett

March 27, 2020


In these times, research matters more…and differently. Because your community and audience need to have a voice and want to be heard.


Dear colleagues and friends,

We hope you and loved ones are staying safe and sane during these trying times. Our team at Slover Linett is working from home, and we’re adapting and learning fast as the situation evolves. You’ve got a lot on your mind, so we’ll be quick; here are five things we want you to know:

We feel for you, especially those of you who have had to close your doors or cancel performances and events. We all know that the arts, museums, public spaces, science engagement, and other cultural experiences can play crucial roles in times of crisis, and to have at least one hand tied behind our backs feels terrible.

Your communities and audiences still want to be connected…with you and each other. So research still matters, but it has to be rethought and repurposed. How? Read Peter Linett’s short piece on this from last week. In times like these, people want to be heard and are eager to contribute their creativity and ideas. (And yes, they’re fully capable of thinking ahead beyond the current crisis. It can even be a relief for them to talk about something else.)

We’re still doing rich, real audience research & evaluation for our clients, often with important shifts in goals, questions, language, timeline, and methods. Sometimes it’s just about acknowledging the global crisis with participants before diving in, and sometimes it’s about letting the crisis be the content (e.g., exploring participants’ new needs, hopes, values, and ideas).

There are great tools for remote and online research, and we’re using them. We’ve shifted our in-depth qualitative interviews to Zoom so we can still connect face to face. We’re exploring platforms like InterVu for online group discussions (these can still be generative) and Revelation for extended interaction. And we’re blending exploratory and quantitative questions in our online surveys in new ways, tapping Decipher’s capabilities.

As you’re shifting to digital on the fly, don’t forget that innovation requires a feedback loop. We’re excited about all the livestreaming and virtualizing that’s going on in the arts and museum field, and we know that evaluation can be a force for relevance — a creative back-and-forth with the people in your community you’re trying to engage in new ways. As Peter wrote in a post on digital innovation a few days ago, “It can be quick, humanistic, agile, and embedded in the virtual-arts-experience itself.”

* * *

All of which is to say: We’re here to help you, your colleagues and your communities in any way we can. If you’re a funder and you’d like a hand identifying the needs of community residents or facilitating a supportive dialogue among grantees, let us know. If you’re a museum or arts leader and you just want a sounding-board, reach out.

It has never been truer, both strategically and epidemiologically, that we’re all in this together.

Photo credit: An empty Broadway house shows the stark reality of cultural shutdowns. Photo by Mark Kennedy/AP, for the New Yorker.

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