Although each client is different, and we do our best to tailor what we do to the needs of each client, the process tends to follow these stages:
Quite often, clients are not entirely clear at the outset what the question is that they want to ask. They are aware that issues exist which need to be addressed, but have not yet fully understood these. As a result, they do not have a completely formed problem analysis as the basis for hiring external support. We work with a client to help frame more precisely the questions to be explored, and the types of outcomes and operational recommendations that would be most useful for the company.
The complexities and range of factors at play mean that rarely will a client jump straight into a large-scale programme of work. Starting the process with a relatively small field of enquiry provides a number of benefits. Firstly, it means that the issues can be better understood, meaning that a larger subsequent piece of work can be better focused. Secondly, it means that results can be fed back into the client’s business very quickly – typically within 6-8 weeks. This means, thirdly, that others in the client company who may be affected by our work get to know us better, and it becomes easier to build internal support for the process.
By this stage, there is a much better understanding of the issues that need to be explored, and the types of recommendations for action that will be needed. At this point a full political economy analysis can be undertaken; work done to understand the implications of this for the client’s business; and recommendations developed as to what will need to be done to respond to the issues that emerge. All the way through the process, we keep the client up to date with what is going on, and can produce interim briefing notes that can be shared internally, as required.
As we’ve said elsewhere, research is no use if it is not acted upon. We therefore work with clients to help them implement the recommendations of our work. This can take many forms, for example, it may be necessary to create new internal policies and processes for operationalising change.
Political economy is a fluid process, and any analysis needs to be revisited from time to time to ensure that it remains up to date. Also, the impact of the changes made by a client need to be evaluated – have the changes made on the back of our analysis worked or not, and if so, what further changes need to be made. We can help clients with these types of issues in the longer run.