Research at a Nonprofit Startup


Tennessee Data Commons is a small organization of only five individuals. Nevertheless, our executive director, Russell Ingram, has always had a vision and passion for user-informed decisions and design. That is why one of the five positions is dedicated solely to research. I (Kevin Newton) am lucky enough to hold that position as a research anthropologist/psychologist, and recently Amy Santee was kind enough to interview me as part of her Anthropologists in Practice Series.

Anthropologists are becoming more and more common in business-type settings. My experiences, approaches and work load describe just one approach among many that can be taken, but what is certain is that one way to boost your value as an organization is to hire an anthropologist:

The list continues, but I will stop there.

It is becoming clear that it is not enough to conduct research, rather what’s important is the type of research and mindset that an organization practices and adopts. Luckily, Data Commons gets this and adopts holistic approaches when possible. Nevertheless, we are a startup and as such we have to find the balance between the “in a perfect world” approach to research and the “good enough” insights. I talk more about this in my interview with Amy Santee. Go there now, give it a read and check out the other great content she provides on her blog.