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Member Survey on 2020 Forum Research Results

By Therese Schneider

Earlier this year, we asked members to complete our annual research survey to help us understand what we’ve been doing well and where we can make improvements. While the 2018 survey informed our strategic planning process, the 2019 results inform our 2020 research agenda and communications. We’ve highlighted some of the results below.

First, we asked a few demographic questions, including asking in which zip code and sector they worked and their age.

The Forum offers many membership benefits, including email notification when new research is released; invitations to members-only presentations and discussions, and; opportunities to have researchers meet with your staff to discuss policy issues in an informal setting. We added virtual events to our portfolio last year, and many of our members were able to take advantage of this new and easy way to engage with us. We asked which of those benefits did members take advantage of and compared to 2018 and 2019. Here’s how they responded:

The Forum produced 58 published reports in 2020. Of those, 39 focused on statewide issues and 13 focused on issues more relevant to southeast Wisconsin. While our research covers a variety of topics, we strive to ensure our research is timely, readable, useful, objective, and accurate. We asked members to tell us how satisfied they were with those elements of our research. More than 90% of respondents were very satisfied or satisfied with our timeliness, readability, usefulness, objectivity, and accuracy.

The Forum’s research focuses on a variety of policy issues, including government finance, economic and workforce development, taxation, transportation, K-12 education, government service sharing, social services, and criminal justice, and we asked which of those were valuable to them.

We asked members to tell us if there were additional policy issues that they would like to see us cover. Among the topics we heard were: Environment, election/voting, health and healthcare, education (beyond what we already cover), ethics/transparency/civility, and race-related issues.

We asked members to tell us how valuable they found our research products (e.g. in-depth reports, Focus, Wisconsin Taxpayer, interactive charts and graphs, budget briefs, and data tools. Overall, respondents found these products to be useful.

Like most organizations, where possible, we moved our events online and created new ways to engage our members and communicate our research. We hosted many virtual events (e.g. Forum Friday) since the beginning of the pandemic. While virtual events will never replace our in-person events, we asked if we should continue hosting these virtual events after we begin doing in-person events again (when it is safe to do so)?

Given the success of our virtual events, including Forum Friday, we asked for input on new and better ways we could share our research. We heard from many members that the pandemic has taught us that we can function virtually better than we thought.

Finally, we asked respondents to share any recommendations for improving our research or how we communicate our research. Here are some highlights:

  • We need to emphasize that in addition to our focus on southeast Wisconsin, we also do (a lot of) research that covers statewide issues. (In 2020, we published 13 reports with a southeast Wisconsin focus, and 39 reports with a statewide focus. Plus, we again published Madison-focused research in 2020 with a Madison Metropolitan School District budget brief and a City of Madison budget brief.)
  • Members appreciate our shorter-form publications that summarize the issues.
  • Host more online events, such as webinars and partner with other organizations and outlets that have an existing podcast.
  • Keep up our social media game (the Forum is on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn).
  • Continue the variety of ways we present and communicate our research.

We appreciate all of our members, but especially the ones who found time to respond to our important survey! We’ve already started to incorporate this feedback, and we look forward to bringing you more nonpartisan public policy research in 2021.