We are nearly 10 years old!

In January 2009 Community Research began trading in earnest, having been registered at Companies’ House six months before. The company began with one founding director, Rachel Lopata and with plans to make the most of the learning gained from over 15 years in market and social research and to deliver work with the help of a great network of skilled colleagues who were already freelancing or considering doing so.

A great deal has changed in the last 10 years. We have grown from one to (as of January 2019) five permanent employees. Our network of associates has also grown considerably, meaning we can handle bigger projects and larger-scale accounts.

The range of work we have done and the clients we work for continues to diversify. We have been lucky enough to develop considerable sector expertise – particularly in water, higher education and regulation – and we have undertaken projects both large and small including traditional surveys and focus groups but also developing some innovative approaches, applying our creativity to help our clients bring the voices of the communities they serve into their decision-making.

One big change over the last decade is the proportion of people with Internet access and using smartphones. In 2009 there remained a strong digital divide and in order to be inclusive of the whole community we usually had to supplement online approaches with more traditional methodologies. This issue has certainly lessened and it is now possible to find many of the traditionally digitally excluded online. The research industry as a whole is using online surveys far more than any other methodology these days (Source: The British Research Barometer). Of course, there will always be a need to approach some communities in different ways – the frail elderly or homeless people, for example – but more research is now undertaken online than via any other route. We much more frequently conduct online qualitative discussion boards in addition to face to face groups and interviews.

Another change we have seen is the greater capture of photos and video as data and also within our reporting. The smartphone revolution has seen far more people able routinely to capture their lives and give their views through self-filming. This form of data capture is one we expect to use more and more in the coming years.

Another huge change we have seen in the last decade is the prevalence of social media. In January 2009 Facebook, for example, had 150 million users worldwide; today that figure stands at 2.27 billion! This has had huge implications for our work - both in terms of the fact that we are increasingly doing research about communications delivered by social media; but also because we are increasingly able to use social media platforms as a route to recruting niche research audiences.

Overall it has been an amazing, exciting and very rewarding 10 years. Lots has changed and the pace of change looks set to continue. The basic principle of what we aim to do remains very much the same - we want to find the best ways to make sure communities get heard by those that serve them. Our options for achieving that look set to continue to change.

Rachel Lopata