Enventure Research was appointed to undertake research on behalf of the Midlands Engine to explore residents’ and businesses’ views about how the Midlands economy should be shaped for the future.
The Midlands Engine is a partnership of local authorities, Local Enterprise Partnerships, businesses, place marketing organisations, universities and colleges, supported by the government, all working together to ensure that the Midlands delivers economic growth. In doing so, the partnership aims to build a collective identity to develop its competitive offer, promote the Midlands to the world and attract people to invest, trade, study, work and live in the region. To achieve this, the Midlands Engine will deliver a campaign that will foster a collective identity, drive economic growth, promote the Midlands to the world, attract people to the region and create a brighter future for all people living in the Midlands.
To support the development of such a campaign and to measure its success, the Midlands Engine wished to gather baseline and post-campaign data in the form of a pre- and post-campaign quantitative survey of residents, businesses and stakeholders, together with qualitative insight to build upon the quantitative findings. Enventure Research was commissioned to undertake the qualitative aspect of the research.
Eight focus groups and three in depth telephone interviews with Midlands residents and business owners were conducted in September 2017. Focus groups for both businesses and residents lasted 90 minutes each, and the telephone interviews lasted approximately 30 minutes each. The telephone interviews were arranged to ensure a good geographical spread of participants was achieved. The focus groups were held in key areas of the Midlands, including Birmingham, Coventry, Wolverhampton, Nottingham, Worcester, Leicester and Lincoln.
Originally the aim was to recruit participants from the quantitative survey. However this proved difficult and only a small number were recruited directly in this way. Enventure Research therefore recruited through local networks and community groups, including a business database provided by the West Midlands Growth Company. Resident participants included a mixture of ages, gender, ethnicity and working status, while business participants represented a range of business sizes, types and industries.
Flexible discussion guides were designed to ensure that all key topics were covered without constraining the flow of discussion and debate. Discussion topics included awareness of the Midlands Engine and its aims and objectives, sense of place, challenges for the Midlands, priorities for how the Midlands economy should be shaped in the future and the impact that Brexit will have on the Midlands. Participants shared their experiences of living and working in the Midlands, what they found good about the region and what could be improved. Focus groups and interviews were facilitated by Enventure Research’s experienced moderators.
The findings were collated by Enventure Research into a comprehensive research report, following systematic and comprehensive thematic analysis of the qualitative feedback. The report provided interesting key insight into residents’ and businesses’ priorities for the Midlands and the role the Midlands Engine should play in this. The research findings will be used by the Midlands Engine to support and inform future decision making.