Businesses, philanthropic foundations, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and community groups ask Roberts & Kay to help when they want to bring about some type of improvement.
We provide these services to meet our clients' needs:
- Facilitation, meeting design and meeting improvement consultation and coaching
- Focus groups
- Training and coaching
- Guidance for change efforts
More information follows.
Facilitation, meeting design and meeting improvement consultation and coaching
At Roberts & Kay, we provide a range of facilitation services, from moderating meetings to designing processes and techniques for effective group work. We work with clients of all sizes and with all kinds of missions. We often provide facilitation services for groups that have been charged with addressing a specific issue or concern, for example "How can citizens make a difference as clean-up begins at a heavily polluted Superfund clean-up site?" Our work with the Site-Specific Advisory Board – Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant is an example of Roberts & Kay facilitation.
We have learned that a well-facilitated meetings are likely to be both productive and fun. We train others to facilitate, primarily in situations where using facilitation skill is both clear and immediate. Two examples: training citizen facilitators for public engagement work to improve education or communities, and training middle school and high school students to carry out facilitated research on ways to improve teaching and learning.
We facilitate many events and ongoing work groups ourselves. We also design and facilitate dialogues on exploratory or highly-charged topics. Our facilitation services include:
- running meetings as a neutral moderator
- advising on a good design and structure for meetings
- advising on appropriate processes and techniques within meetings
- providing technical assistance and administrative support for meeting notes and group reports
We have a special interest in self-managed groups. We teach, coach, advise and consult within all sectors to boost meeting members' capabilities for organizing and sustaining productive meetings.
Roberts & Kay conducts sophisticated focus group research for clients who want to understand the ideas and views of a particular group of people – customers, employees, constituents, or citizens, for example – in more depth. We use focus groups to answer such questions as "How do clients of early childhood programs view the adequacy and quality of services available in their communities?" That question guided a study for the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence and the Kentucky Department of Education that serves as an example of Roberts & Kay focus group research with citizens.
Focus groups, when skillfully planned and carried out, offer a powerful means of finding out how all types of stakeholders think and feel about questions that may now seem unanswerable. Roberts & Kay conducts carefully designed focus groups on ideas, views, products, services, messages, and customer or client satisfaction. We value qualitative methods because they are the path to understanding why people have particular opinions, attitudes, and values. We gather information and then analyze it to help our clients understand their own customers, clients, and constituents in more depth. This deep understanding gives our clients sound reasons for making important strategic decisions with confidence. We have assembled our years of experience with focus group research into a specific Roberts & Kay approach to focus groups.
Roberts & Kay also teaches other groups, particularly school communities, how to conduct focus group research with their primary stakeholders. In conjunction with the Partnership for Kentucky Schools, we have developed a "how-to" guide for school communities that describes the process of conducting student-based focus groups from start to finish. You can read more about that guide by going to Turn Up the Volume: The Students Speak Toolkit.
People engage Roberts & Kay to conduct hands-on, qualitative research that seeks to understand the reasons behind people's views and to put reliable information to practical use. Working collaboratively with community partners, we have conducted research on civic change efforts to address such questions as "What practices should community groups use to build and sustain good community dialogue projects on important issues, particularly race and racism?" The Best Practices study we conducted for the Study Circles Resource Center is an example of one major Roberts & Kay study (or documentation) of civic change.
We do research to provide our clients information that leads to wise decisions and improved results. Many of our research clients are in the public, non-profit, and philanthropic sectors.
Our methods are proudly qualitative, and typically focus on understanding the reasons behind people's views. Though our research results generally include numbers, we are particularly skilled at finding defensible answers to hard questions that numbers cannot explain. We use focus groups, interviews with key people, skilled observation, and written materials to learn about and write about change efforts.
We pay particular attention to the clarity and usability of our written research products. For research that involves documenting important civic change efforts, we often take a "learning with" approach, working in collaboration with those whose work we are studying.
While many sponsors of research require complete confidentiality because of the sensitive nature of their inquiries and findings, some of our research clients have conducted their studies publicly and have agreed to allow Roberts & Kay to describe that work. A few of the research products have also been made public. We will share an example if you request it.
Training and coaching
Roberts & Kay began work with the Partnership for Kentucky Schools in 1995 to create a training for school leaders and staff whose responsibilities include coaching school personnel to be more effective in their work. The Authentic Partnership™ model that emerged builds on the action research and practical work of Chris Argyris, Roger Schwarz and others, and provides a model and related tools for developing the internal commitment necessary for meaningful and sustained changed. In addition, the Authentic Partnership™ key values and guidelines provide more effective options for the design of individual meetings, internal communications, outreach efforts, and planning processes. The values and guidelines also provide a framework for analyzing current and proposed organizational policies and procedures. The Authentic Partnership™ model increases the effectiveness of the work of leaders, managers, coaches, facilitators, and colleagues.
Steve Kay developed a workshop focused on individual communication effectiveness based on the Authentic Partnership™ approach. "Effective Communication by Choice" is a two-day workshop that expands communication choices through increased understanding of present habits and effective alternatives. Steve has written a short paper describing "Effective Communication by Choice" and a longer paper that provides more detail. If you are interested, let us know and we will share these with you.
Guidance for change efforts
People invite Roberts & Kay to help when they are involved in a business, nonprofit organization, or public-private community group that must change in order to thrive. Often the central question is "How do we figure out what to do that will be effective, and how do we get all the necessary people to do their part?" Our work with the Kentucky Arts Council is one example of a participative organizational change effort in a statewide arts agency.
Roberts & Kay also works with nonprofit and civic organizations that are dedicated to long-term community change. For example, we have worked with the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence for many years on the question "How can people in a state with historically poor schools create a climate of support for school improvement?"
At Roberts & Kay we have a number of favorite tools we use to guide change efforts.
Roberts & Kay provides guidance for businesses, organizations, and community groups working to improve how people get their work done together. Our services include assessing, advising, designing, and redesigning programs and everyday communication practices. We facilitate sessions in which co-workers or group members address and work through issues and opportunities. We teach skills of self-management, team development, self-facilitation, planning, and self-assessment to work groups.
In addition, we lead or coach strategic planning processes and design and implement projects aimed at complex community change. Over the years, we have drawn upon a number of different tools to accomplish these important changes.