I’m putting this online to see what people think. I’d love to refine this in light of any feedback. It’s sometimes quite difficult to know what consultants actually do for a living! This is what I think I do:
James Doeser Service Menu: June 2017
Here is a menu of services that I offer as a freelance consultant. Essentially, my time and output tends to be valuable in two ways: I provide a corpus of knowledge (‘what works’, who is doing cool stuff, etc.) whilst also bringing an analytical mindset (testing, questioning, teasing). All of this is presented in a compelling and robust (yet jargon-free) package, whether that’s a presentation, workshop or written report.
Any and all of the tasks below can involve a short consultation and small amount of remedial work, or an in-depth commission lasting many months.
1. You’ve got data
Maybe you’re sitting on survey data, box-office data, financial data, or something similar. You’ve been collecting it but not taking advantage of its insights.
My contribution: I can audit what you have, straighten it out, analyse it, benchmark it against other sources, and present it back to you in an attractive dashboard and/or short written report.
2. You’re data-hungry
You want to gather all the relevant data for your forthcoming project or report. Maybe you’d like to evaluate and benchmark your work, and you need to start with a baseline (or at least set some reasonable targets).
My contribution: I can assemble a basket of relevant data and present its story to provide a robust picture of the landscape.
3. From idea to action
You are just starting out, you have a bright idea for a new programme of work or a new project. You need help putting it into operation.
My contribution: I can work with you to devise a Project Plan, develop a Theory of Change, map out potential audiences, stakeholders and partners.
4. Refining mission, goals and objectives
You’ve got an idea, you’ve got a plan, but you aren’t sure if it’s going to stand the test of time and whether it all really fits together. You’re looking for an independent ‘critical friend’ to make sure it’s robust enough to withstand scrutiny.
My contribution: I can work with you to ‘stress test’ the approach you propose, to sharpen your objectives and ensure that your approach is going to yield the results you’re after.
Knowing What Works
5. Learn from the best
Whatever new programme or project you are developing, it’s likely that someone elsewhere in the world (or elsewhere in history) has attempted something similar. Why not take advantage of their experience, repeat their successes and avoid their mistakes?
My contribution: I will undertake a rapid review of all known research and activity underway globally to package up in a straightforward way the insights that identify key success factors and pitfalls to avoid.
6. Change the world
Perhaps you want to educate, inform or entertain? Every programme of work or project seeks to change the world in some way. The work that you do is only one part of the story. You need to know that your project will have the desired impact and not be blown off course by other things going on in people’s lives.
My contribution: I can work with you to fully understand what change you are seeking to make, and help refine your plan so that it takes account of all known research to really deliver that change as effectively as possible.
7. Be a learning organisation
You want to be the best at what you do. Evaluation can be a daunting task, yet it is essential to understand the impact that your organisation is making, as well as accounting for the impact of other people’s investment in you.
My contribution: After learning about your work and its purpose, I can design and conduct/commission an appropriate evaluation (tailored to your needs), I can subsequently help you digest its findings and disseminate the learning more widely.
8. Find the experts
You have allies and insightful people at your disposal, even if you don’t realise it. Who has published the most important studies that are relevant for you and your work? Which organisations are busy pursuing the same goals as you?
My contribution: I can scan the world to find the most appropriate experts to team up with, I can present you with their key insights and seek to broker future collaborations with them.
9. Public sector, trusts and foundations
You need money. What are your prospects for applying to the likes of the Arts Council, Local Authorities and other independent grant-giving agencies? This is an increasingly competitive world. Crucially, many funders don’t simply give money for activity, they want to see measurable outcomes.
My contribution: I can advise on the best approach to project design and the vocabulary to use to ensure your work aligns with their goals. Beyond this, I can draft (or merely edit/advise upon) the text of your funding application(s).
10. Corporate sponsorship and private giving
You still need money. Approaching corporate sponsors and private individuals can be a daunting process. For some organisations, it is about offering a glamorous antidote to corporate life, while for others it is about a route to social justice and community impact.
My contribution: Together we can devise a prospectus for corporate sponsors, and think critically about how to tell the story of your organisation in way that is compelling for potential donors.
Spreading the word
11. Review and refresh
Your website, programme notes, annual reports etc. all say something about your work and your values. It can be hard to convey these in a powerful way that is authentic to the complex artistic work you do. Establishing an institutional voice and tone can be a challenge.
My contribution: I can review all your communications material and together we can sharpen up the prose to make it powerful and distinctive whilst retaining an essential authenticity.
12. Generate killer copy
You want to get the word out there, to the opinion-formers and decision-makers. An essential task of all arts and culture organisations is keeping the world abreast of your most recent work, its qualities, and the difference that you make in the world. This involves more than just writing your latest programme of events or brochure for next year.
My contribution: I can write compelling and intelligent copy about your work that is jargon-free. This can for the basis for annual reports, case-studies, website or social media content. Together, we can pitch articles to the trade press and other media outlets.