The structure of research

Five years ago I started with a small blog (in Dutch) about user research in government: I had just started working as a user researcher myself, at the Executive Agency of Education (DUO, in the Netherlands). What I learned, I wrote on my blog and shared with a few readers.

One blog led to another. From applying research methods, experiments to involve users (including failures!) to strategic decisions about the role research should play in the organization. In the past five years our research team grew stronger and we invested in our research operations.

Five years of blogging

In addition to an enormous stream of blogs, we built a research strategy for DUO, inspired by the ResearchOps framework. Our strategy is constantly changing, we work with it every day.

The why, what and how

On this board are three circles, which are of course the circles of Simon Sinek. Every activity can be traced back to the why: digital services that are good for people.

We will succeed in this if all employees in the legal, business, design and development chain are involved and have insight into the experience of citizens or business users.

In this visual strategy you will find the following topics that help us achieve our goal:

  • the role of researchers and a research culture in your organization
  • how to organize your research properly, secure and scalable
  • the quality, innovation and standardization of research methods
  • analyse and share your research insights with impact

Where it is useful, I immediately added some explanation. For example, the part about sharing research: how do you share it? And why in that way?

Or the section on research methods. I made an overview of the different types of research for which a method is used.

Last example: we started coaching teams in human-centered design a year ago. Our organization has over 40 development teams. This meant we had to think bigger than we did before. Our efforts had to be scalable. How can we help our entire organization to want, to know, to be able and to do? I present: our coaching strategy.

It’s going to work

This big picture is the main reason I write blogs alongside my regular work. I think it is important that we create something new within the government, namely that we consider citizens more important than ourselves.

When I started blogging, I mainly wanted to learn myself. I was new in the government and I had always blogged about what was on my mind. I wrote down what I learned as a researcher. In the beginning I had three visitors per month. That was fine, because it gave me room to fool around in my corner of the internet.

Now there are a lot more readers than three. And I still learn so much. Together we learn how it can be done: a government that listens, that really wants to change things and make better services for citizens. It will work, it is already happening!

The growth at my organization has been inspiring. The best thing of the past five years? That research went far beyond my discipline. Many colleagues became enthusiastic about the relationship we have with citizens. That is why research operations are so important. Let’s do it all together. Doing research, listening to citizens, everyone should be a part of that.

Design researcher working for Dutch government -