How we commission good quality research

I hear that there’s some exciting news about procurement…

Yes, Essex County Council (ECC) has recently extended its Insight and Innovation Market Research Framework for a further year, to 31st December 2019.

That’s great… so what is the framework?

The framework was set up to support the commissioning of good quality opinion and market research, innovation and other associated services for when we need to bring in additional skills and capacity, and for situations that require independent research. It is intended to simplify the procurement process, reduce timescales and associated costs.

The framework can be used by anyone within ECC - as well as a number of partners across Essex - who wishes to engage an external research, evaluation or innovation specialist.

How does it work then?

The 24 suppliers on the framework have been through an initial competitive procurement process conducted and evaluated by ECC. This means that only a simplified procurement process is then required to commission work through the framework, including for medium or high-risk projects, which usually involve a longer and more complex procurement process. The framework can therefore substantially reduce the time it takes to select and contract a supplier.

The framework provides access to 24 suppliers across four lots:

  • LOT 1 – Quantitative Research: Written/postal surveys; telephone surveys; statistical analysis and modelling; data processing, analysis and tabulation; mapping exercises; and residents/business opinion research.
  • LOT 2 – Qualitative Research: In-depth interviews; focus groups; ethnographic research; deliberative research (e.g. workshops); events (including virtual/online activities); stakeholder engagement; discourse analysis; and citizens panels.
  • LOT 3 – Communications Research: Conceptual creative testing for brand/and or campaign; campaign evaluation; brand awareness/tracking; reputation awareness/tracking; commercial viability/testing for existing or potential new products and services; and social marketing and behaviour change tracking.
  • LOT 4 – Innovative Practices and Approaches to Insights: Research and consultancy to inform policy design and formulation; understanding behaviour change and social marketing; observational and behavioural approaches such as ethnography and neuroscience; monitoring and impact evaluation; and integrated and collaborative approaches.

To commission a supplier, a mini competition is conducted across one or more lots (depending on the scope of the work), with all suppliers on each relevant lot invited to participate. Lots 1-3 are evaluated on a 30% quality/70% price basis, whilst Lot 4 is evaluated on a 50% quality/50% price basis. Depending on the complexity of the work being procured and the number of supplier evaluation questions included, suppliers may be given anything from one week to up to four weeks to submit a bid.

Where has the framework been used previously?

As an example, ECC has previously used the framework to procure a supplier for its Essex Residents’ Survey, which is undertaken annually as part of ECC’s performance monitoring arrangements and informs a number of its organisational measures. The survey is ECC’s sole reliable information source on resident perceptions of their local area and council services; as such it is important that it is both statistically robust (collecting over 4,500 postal survey responses from randomly sampled residents across Essex) and impartial.

Contracting a third-party specialist via the framework to conduct the fieldwork and analyse the survey responses helps meet both these requirements, whilst ensuring value for money for the Council.

So how do I find out more about the framework?

For more information about the framework, contact the Research & Citizen Insight team at

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