The research sector is at a pivotal moment to take the steps needed not only to survive but to thrive, says Carol McNaughton Nicholls.
As an industry, we have survived. The value of what we do has shone through. We are privileged to be in the business of understanding human behaviour, attitudes, drivers – representing the social landscape and the implications this has for future planning and change.
Now, as we tentatively emerge after a period of lockdown far longer than any of us could have imagined, it is also a time for us to continue to reflect, as an industry, back onto ourselves.
Sociological concepts can help to make sense of the social world around us. Reflexivity is one such concept – the act of reflecting on ourselves, intentionally, and by doing so influencing what comes next. Reflexivity creates a bi-directional relationship whereby we are both influenced by external forces, and also influence how they are shaped and responded to via our own agency. Reflexivity is a fertile concept for our industry.
Being reflexive, we don’t just provide our clients with insights and implications – we take these on board ourselves, always asking: ‘What does what we hear and learn mean for us, as an industry?’ We can influence what happens next, as well as being influenced by it. We need to be intentional in the type of industry we want to be as we look to the future.