Liz is the Research Associate at Grassroots Public Affairs and is based in St. Catharines. Liz can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In summer 2019, I decided to transition from full- to part-time work at Grassroots to start graduate school at Western University. The choice to pursue a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree was a big step but not a difficult decision for me. That said, I did get some well-meaning questions from friends, family, and colleagues about why I thought this kind of education would be relevant.
The answer is research! Library and information science professionals are trained researchers and serve as key partners in the research process for academics and other professionals.
Although the image of brick-and-mortar libraries continues to dominate popular culture, the Internet has completely retooled the research and information-seeking environment, and information professionals are on the front lines. As a library student, I’ve taken classes in traditional cataloguing and classification but also courses addressing online information retrieval, web design and architecture, human-computer interaction, and database management systems so that I can support high-quality research in an increasingly digital context.
Regardless of the methodology involved, research offers the chance to identify, unpack, and build on ideas that are fresh and new (or, just new to me!). I don’t always come armed with expertise in the topic of interest, which means that I get to learn from, and collaborate with, people who are deeply engaged with their academic or professional field. There’s nothing more exciting than being the first to know about emerging innovation or new opportunities.
Importantly, research can involve wrestling with questions that are difficult, and getting really (really) comfortable with uncertainty. Similarly, studies and projects sometimes go “off the rails” and evolve in new and unexpected ways – and that’s okay! These moments give me a chance to stretch my mind by questioning the process, making changes, and reaching for new ideas or possibilities.
It goes without saying that the past fourteen months have been challenging. For me, one bright light came about at the end of last year when I took on the new role of Research Associate full-time at Grassroots. In this position, I work with our clients to identify, evaluate, and capitalize on opportunities to engage with government at all levels. While the idea of presenting my research was a bit anxiety-inducing at first, I’ve been fortunate to have the support of the Grassroots team – all of whom have helped me become a clearer and more confident communicator.
As Peter (our founder and principal) reminds us, a central goal of government relations work is to educate policymakers about innovative developments and potential policy solutions that could have a positive impact on public programming and quality of life for Canadians. Whether this work takes the form of a government program review to help advance an organization or industry goal, a sentiment analysis of media or consumer comments, or a scan of academic literature to ground a policy position, it has been a pleasure to see our clients build on comprehensive and authoritative information to develop their advocacy efforts.
While research initiatives may seem tedious and unnecessary to those who are embedded in professional communities (“why wouldn’t X politician see where we’re coming from?”), careful research is the foundation of successful advocacy – both in terms of strategy development and engagement. Research gives your advocacy substance, establishes your reputation as an ‘expert’ on the issue, provides you with evidence to support your case to government and the media, and can be used identify workable solutions to address your challenges.
All that’s to say – I look forward to completing my final master’s courses this summer and I can’t wait to find out which project will arrive next in my inbox. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions about how research can strengthen your message to government.