Public Square is a boutique consultancy shop that specializes in accessing and engaging stakeholders, donors and communities that are often hard to reach-thereby enhancing the dialogue in the public square and putting the people back in research.
We believe market and opinion research has changed: it’s no longer a static survey or set of focus groups. Nor is it the simple asking and analyzing of insightful questions. Today’s research is part of an ongoing conversation with key audiences that collects and transfers information that must have meaning, direction and actionable output for the client.
Founded in 2015, our team has over 75 years of combined experience at a senior level in research, engagement, and strategic thinking. Our specialists have honed their skills working at or with some of the biggest names in research. Their experience combines the best practices in current online panel research and development with a deep understanding of tried and true methods to generate effective results with specialized research applications. Whether it is research conducted in the community, the nation or internationally, our team always finds the story in the data that matters to our clients.
Serious research rests on much more than a good question or two. It also involves careful planning and wading through numbers and data, which may be meaningless and dull for most—not for us. We enjoy animating those numbers in ways that are easy to understand and exciting. In a very real sense, we find meaning in the numbers and build stories that not only provide a clear direction forward for strategic planning, but are also easy for you to communicate and act on when the time comes.
Whether it is trying to unlock key value propositions to build your brand, build your own panel, finding the right words to persuade or motivate donor support, or if you’re in the throes of a crisis and require issues management support; all of these challenges are better navigated with serious research that is shared in an accessible manner.
Much of our work is engaging with the broader Canadian population, but sometimes that’s just not enough. We also take pride in reaching hard to reach communities on their terms, and, if and when required, building research panels among those who are rarely found on surveys. Sometimes this engagement means going to them, and connecting qualitatively through focus groups; whereas in other cases it can mean structuring a survey or an ongoing conversation online through a mobile phone application, or panel. In all cases it requires a research partner that has experience in different methods and is adaptable to the needs of the community itself.
We are expert in a range of panel development options. As a result we can help you maximize limited research dollars and avoid many of the common pitfalls that occur in the initial stages of panel development. From hosting your initial research panel until you get off the ground; help in selecting a research panel that will work long term; teaching you some tricks of the trade in questionnaire design, or helping you analyze survey results in a way that will stand up to scrutiny and inform; we specialize in helping you build a stable research panel, and get the most from your community.
Our social science experience also provides a depth of understanding in the study of opinion change over time. As a result we specialize in thinking through complex research puzzles to construct incisive metrics that capture what matters when you are trying to gauge subtle, or not so subtle, opinion shifts. These indices are integral to understanding change over time, as well as in guarding your brand, but they can also be highly useful in times or organizational stress.
We have collectively spent over a two decades researching and engaging young people both on and offline, and we’ve become very good at it. We fully appreciate how this generation talks and how they are different than previous generations and their older counterparts. We also understand how these attitudinal and behavioural differences can impact brand engagement or affect policy-outcomes in profound ways—in some cases causing brand erosion and policy failure. We also know that—while useful—appealing to millennials can sometimes negatively influence the brand relationship with their older counterparts. Navigating the generational divide can be tricky.
With a passion for civic engagement, Heather has more than ten years of hands-on experience in engagement and motivation research, as well as extensive expertise in both qualitative and quantitative research design and execution.
A former Skelton Clark Postdoctoral fellow at Queen’s University, Heather holds a PhD and MA in Political Science from the University of Toronto, where she earned a degree in political psychology and motivation, dedicating much of that time to research focused on political and youth engagement. Early in her academic career, she engaged youth in an innovative study using Facebook as a survey platform. From there, she moved on to focus groups, large-N studies, interviews, and ethnography.
As research director at Samara, she led a team of 21 academics to study the health of democratic engagement in the country. This project yielded several research reports, as well as a book which is now used in classrooms across the country. Working as Senior Vice President of Angus Reid Global, she honed her understanding of state-of-the-art panel research and engagement methods and has delivered strategic advice on numerous public affairs projects. She now specializes in market segmentation, SWOT analysis, and Index development.
Heather is co-editor of Canadian Democracy from the Ground Up: Perceptions and Performance, a book that measures the health of Canadian democracy, and co-author of Representation at Home: Members of Parliament in their Constituencies (forthcoming). She has published work in the Canadian Journal of Political Science and the Journal of Youth Studies, among others.
Dr. Bastedo also serves as a founding director on the board of Canadian Association for Public Opinion Research.
After 26 years as a Senior Vice President for Angus/Ipsos Reid, John Wright left in 2016 to become an independent consultant associate. John is recognized nationally as a public affairs polling and research strategist who has worked on communications efforts and campaigns for almost 35 years. In his last five years at Ipsos he managed a global division component that conducted over 1,000,000 interviews for clients. He was designated an Expert in his field—one of only 150 employees out of 17,000 to earn the distinction. He was also the Canadian spokesperson for the company for his entire tenure, appearing on countless television and radio shows and created 1300 media releases on topics of public, corporate and institutional interests both nationally and internationally.
Prior his opinion research career, John was part of the leadership team at Advance Planning & Communications Ltd. and Camp Associates Advertising Ltd. He also served as Government Relations Coordinator for Manufacturers Life. John’s strength is through Ideation—he not only knows how to conduct opinion research but, drawing on his decades of experience, works with clients on how best to apply it for client success. In short, he’s the “so what?” researcher in the room.
John has worked on membership and issue related campaigns involving almost every sector and for the past decade presented an annual study on Halton’s housing and community prospects sponsored by the Toronto Real Estate Association. He has also conducted many municipal and community research efforts on topics ranging from energy and waste to transportation, immigration, character and hospital reconfiguration.
John also serves as a founding director on the board of Canadian Association for Public Opinion Research. He also served on the advisory board of Cancer Care Ontario and as a board member for the Canadian Alzheimer Society and the Ontario Heart and Stroke Association and many other organizations assisting Canadian soldiers and their families. He is an Honorary Colonel in the Royal Canadian Air Force and has many distinctions including the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.
Chris has been an active member of the research industry for over twenty-five years. As National Director of Research Operations for Pollara (1999-2011), Chris was responsible for all information systems, including operational and strategic planning for quantitative and qualitative project applications.
Over the course of his career Chris has overseen more than two thousand quantitative projects, including many large-scale, ongoing panels and tracking studies for clients including the University of Calgary, the Insurance Bureau of Canada, Dominion Insurance, BC Gas, TD Bank, Bell Canada, the Business Development Bank of Canada, American Airlines, and Social Research and Demonstration Corporation.
Chris earned an Honours Bachelor of Arts from the University of Waterloo.
Spencer’s approach to research analysis and methodology has been shaped by both years of honing his craft and a sustained academic curiosity. During his time at the University of British Columbia (BA) and Queen’s University (MA), he took part in designing, running, and evaluating the results of multiple experiments. These have ranged from gauging value-based responses to political advertising to a study of professional cricket players. His curiosity stems from continuing to improve his skills to best facilitate and present quantitative and qualitative analysis in a way that is approachable for both researchers and the wider public.
Spencer has training in statistical software and has recently co-authored an article in Commonwealth & Comparative Politics.
Read Bastedo is a recent graduate from the University of Toronto, with an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and English, currently completing a Research Analysis certificate program at Georgian College. Along with a passion for social justice, Read brings excellent communication and presentation skills which have proven invaluable.