So you want to do some longitudinal research?

Author: Leo Campos
March 20, 2017

As the VLDS continues to grow, and there are many exciting new changes coming down the pipeline, now is a great time to share insights into running a research project with internal and external stakeholders.  

Here's a list of three things to consider before beginning a research project with the VLDS. To be honest, this list might apply to just about any research project, so use it like my children use ranch dressing and apply it to everything.

The most critical component of any project, especially a research project with multiple partners and moving parts, is to maintain consistent communication with stakeholders. This is especially important in projects that require the data and reports from multiple agencies. With the VLDS, every agency who supplies data for a project is “participating” even if their role is more passive than the sponsoring agency.

Begin “over communicating” on Day 1 and never let up. Have you ever been involved in a project post-mortem where someone complains about how it was over-communicated? Chances are no. Even if you think you have “over communicated” you’ll still be surprised to find out how many stakeholders have not heard about this, that or the other.

In addition to strong communication, it is absolutely critical for the researcher to have thorough stakeholder engagement to scope program priorities. VLDS research is like Chinese cooking: a whole lot of prep and chopping, and then throw it in the wok and voila!

The final point is to make sure there is plenty of adequate time with agency subject matter experts (SMEs) prior to finalizing report designs and beginning development. And I mean plenty! This phase is almost iterative- you will meet, get some information, go away and plan, and then meet again and find out more information. It takes time to uncover it all. This is not because SMEs are trying to be difficult, but rather because we have so much data.  Permutations and combinations can be quite staggering and it may take a few cycles before there is confidence that the report/study will be viable.

And a bonus point: delays! Build all SME time into the project schedule. Plus, build all approval time into the project schedule. Be aware of the political calendar -if the Legislature is in session you can bet your bottom dollar that everything will slow to a crawl as the agencies focus on providing information and support during General Assembly.

Bottom line: be flexible and talk to everyone. Your project will be successful, and it will have a greater chance of positively impacting public policy in the Commonwealth.


Categories: General Interest

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