Community Research Partners learns how to run as a business

She’s helped her team realize that even though they want to do every bit of research possible — because they are passionate about community change and getting people information so they can make smart decisions — giving the client a Lexus won’t help CRP stay in business.

“It wasn’t that they didn’t want to do a good job or didn’t want to help us keep our doors open; they wanted to do more and more and more for the client,” she says.

In addition, if it takes six months to build a Lexus-type project and two months to complete a Corolla-type project, the faster, but less complete answer might be better.

This new perspective has helped CRP reign in expenses and finish projects on time.

Cook also knows that if CRP’s researchers spend 70 percent of their time on billable projects, there are enough funds so their remaining time can be spent on mission-driven community work. That’s typically 30 small projects a year, 10 hours or less, pro bono.

There’s also a lot of crossover between the two types of work, she says.

Making connections

CRP gets a unique look at the community’s data. Cook says the researchers work across health and human services, workforce development, economy and community development, for example, so they get to see snippets of all kinds of data.

She’s seen time and time again where people are an expert at the data in their area, but they don’t have the opportunity to hear about data from other arenas — even though it’s often interconnected.

“I think what surprises us is how much these different experts aren’t talking to one another,” Cook says.

To help facilitate conversations and also make data more fun, CRP tries to visualize data, in what it calls databytes, on a monthly basis.

“We are intentional in trying to pick unusual datasets and really peak the interest and curiosity of people and make them think about something perhaps they haven’t thought about before,” Cook says.

CRP wants people to remember that there’s a lot of data they don’t know, which would be incredibly useful in what they do, even though it doesn’t necessarily feel directly relevant.

“People can often be intimidated by data, and anything we can do to help people understand that just because we’re research geeks doesn’t mean you can’t talk to us like normal people,” Cook says.