Category: Government

State of Our Cities and Towns – 2017

For many years, Corona has partnered with the Colorado Municipal League to conduct the research that is the foundation of their annual State of Our Cities and Towns report. CML produced the following short video, specifically for municipal officials, about the importance of investing in quality of life:

Learn more, view the full report, and watch additional videos on the State of Our Cities website.

Writing an RFP

So you’ve finally reached a point where you feel like you need more information to move forward as an organization, and, even more importantly, you’ve been able to secure some amount of funding to do so. Suddenly you find yourself elbow deep in old request-for-proposals (RFPs), both from your organization and others, trying to craft an RFP for your project. Where do you start?

We write a lot of proposals in response to RFPs at Corona, and based on what we’ve seen, here are a few suggestions for what to include in your next RFP:

  • Decision to be made or problem being faced. One of the most important pieces of information that is often difficult to find, if not missing from an RFP, is what decision an organization is trying to make or what problem an organization is trying to overcome. Instead, we often see RFPs asking for a specific methodology, while not describing what an organization is planning to do with the information. While specifying the methodology can sometimes be important (e.g., you want to replicate an online survey of donors, you need to perform an evaluation as part of a grant, etc.), sometimes specifying it might limit what bidders suggest in their proposals.

Part of the reason why you hire a consultant is to have them suggest the best way to gather the information that your organization needs. With that in mind, it might be most useful to describe the decision or problem that your organization is facing in layman’s terms and let bidders propose different ways to address it.

  • Other sources of data/contacts. Do you have data that might be relevant to the proposals? Did your organization conduct similar research in the past that you want to replicate or build upon? Do you have contact information for people who you might want to gather information from for this project? All these might be useful pieces of information to include in an RFP.
  • Important deadlines. If you have key deadlines that will shape this project, be sure to include them in the RFP. Timelines can impact proposals in many ways. For example, if a bidder wants to propose a survey, a timeline can determine whether to do a mail survey, which takes longer, or a phone survey, which is often more expensive but quicker.
  • Include a budget, even a rough one. I think questions about the budget are the number one question I see people ask about an RFP. While a budget might scare off a more expensive firm, it is more likely that including a budget in an RFP helps firms propose tasks that are financially feasible.

Requesting proposals can be a useful way to get a sense of what a project might cost, which might be useful if you are trying to figure out how much funding to secure. If so, it’s often helpful to just state in your RFP that your considering different options and would like pricing for each recommended task, along with the arguments for why it might be useful.

  • Stakeholders. Who has a stake in the results of the project and who will be involved in decisions about the project?  Do you have a single internal person that the contractor will report to or perhaps a small team?  Are there others in the organization who will be using the results of the project?  Do you have external funders who have goals or reporting needs that you hope to be met by the project?  Clarifying who has a stake in the project and what role they will play in the project, whether providing input on goals, or approving questionnaire design, is very helpful. It is useful for the consultant to know who will need to be involved so they can plan to make sure everyone’s needs are addressed.

Writing RFPs can be daunting, but they can also be a good opportunity for thinking about and synthesizing an important decision or problem into words. Hopefully these suggestions can help with that process!

Colorado’s New Statewide Child Abuse Hotline

We were pleased yesterday to attend the unveiling of Colorado’s new rollout of a statewide hotline to report suspected child abuse or neglect.  Governor Hickenlooper and other dignitaries spoke on the Capitol steps, and we think it’s a great step forward for Colorado.


Our partners at Heinrich Marketing came up with several great concepts, and we were delighted to conduct concept testing that helped lead to the selection of the campaign that was announced today.  We conducted focus group research in urban and rural Colorado to weigh the strengths and weaknesses of five different concepts.  We think the selected theme is a great way to convey a complex and challenging message.

You can see examples of the campaign theme put to use here.

How to creatively solve problems

art economyI read this article in the Atlantic a few months ago which described how a surprising number of inventions and innovations in various fields are coming from people who are not experts in the field of interest. It reminded me of how some scientists have created computer games based on real world problems, and people playing these games have been able to help solve some interesting problems (e.g. Foldit). In both the examples in the article and the real world computer games, a slightly outside perspective helped companies or researchers solve an important problem.

It is easy to get into a rut when trying to solve a problem because our inclination is to immerse ourselves in the problem. Although carefully scanning a problem can help us spot errors, focusing on details does not help if the solution to your problem requires seeing the bigger picture and thinking creatively. Outsiders generally do not have the same specific level of detailed knowledge, so it’s easier for them to see the bigger picture. So here are some suggestions to help you come up out of your rut for a breath of fresh air and see your problems in a new light:

  1. Mentally distance yourself from the problem. When we think of something as distant from us, we tend to think about it more abstractly, and research has shown that thinking abstractly can lead to being more creative[1]. Imagining your problem as happening far in the future, in another country, or even to another person are ways of creating distance mentally between you and your problem.
  2. Walk away from the problem. No, seriously. And for those of you who made it a resolution to get more exercise, great news: you can now kill two birds with one stone. Leung and colleagues (2012) found that actually getting out of the box (i.e. the office) led to more creative problem solving[2]. You can make it even more impactful by walking outside, since immersion in nature also increase creativity[3].
  3. Watch some funny cat videos or whatever other videos make you laugh or put you into a good mood. If your boss walks by, just point to this blog post and explain that you are problem solving. Researchers have found in general that positive mood helps us creatively solve problems.[4]
  4. Sleep on the problem. Although getting enough sleep is sometime difficult when there are tight deadlines, sleep can lead to insights that help us solve problems.[5]
  5. And of course, when you are completely stuck, find someone further removed from the problem to take a look at what you are doing. We all do this informally when we talk to friends and family about problems at work. (We often joke about how the friends and family of Corona employees are an invaluable asset to our company!) But sometimes you need to do it formally as well. Even though we are a research firm, we too have hired outsiders when we have needed to think creatively about our own company. Because sometimes you really are too close to a problem to see the forest instead of the trees.

[1] Forster, J., Friedman, R.S., & Liberman, N. (2004). Temporal construal effects on abstract and concrete thinking: Consequences for insight and creative cognition. Journal of Personality and social Psychology, 87,  177-189.

[2] Leung, A.K.Y., et al. (2012). Embodied metaphors and creative “acts”. Psychological Science, 23, 502-509.

[3] Atchley, R.A., Strayer, D.L., & Atchley, P. (2012). Creativity in the wild: Improving creative reasoning through immersion in natural settings. PLoS One, 7, e51474

[4] Isen, A.M., Daubman, K.A., & Nowicki, G.P. (1987). Positive affect facilitates creative problem solving. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 6, 1122-1131.

[5] Wagner, U.; Gals, S.; Halder, H.; Verleger, R.; Born, J. (2004) Sleep inspires insight. Nature 427, 352-355.

Imagine 2020 launch

Yesterday, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock revealed Denver’s first cultural plan in 25 years. This strategic plan, written by Corona Insights in partnership with Denver Arts & Venues, will fuel the next era for our city’s art, culture and creativity. What a treat it was to attend the press conference, see the final printed plan and hear firsthand the excitement felt by city leaders and residents.

Corona leveraged its expertise in strategy, data and market research to serve the company’s hometown. The result? A community-centered plan designed to achieve a seven part vision. From finding more art around every corner, to learning over a lifetime and supporting local artists, Denverites hunger for more art.

What can you do? Go to www.imaginedenver2020.org and check out the plan.  There will be an official release party on Thursday at 6pm. Come early to see a presentation of the research behind the plan by Corona Insights that starts at 4pm.  Then stay tuned to see how you can get involved.

We ART Denver.
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Strategic planning and market research fuel IMAGINE 2020

With tremendous pride and a full heart, Karla Raines presented the Denver Commission on Cultural Affairs (DCCA) with IMAGINE 2020: Denver’s Cultural Plan at their January 2014 meeting.  The commission had been strong proponents of a refreshed cultural plan for Denver.  These volunteers served as Corona’s creative muse throughout the 15-month process.  They held firm in their belief that Denver needed a research-driven plan that was strategic by design and held forth a bold vision for Denver.  Their insistence that the process be community-driven resulted in a cultural plan that speaks to the aspirations and expectations of Denver residents.

Corona was happy to host the commission’s monthly meeting in their downtown Denver office (pictured below). A celebratory toast and freshly baked cookies from Maggie and Molly’s Bakery capped off the event.

Stay tuned!  IMAGINE 2020 will be revealed to the public in early March. .  Visit ImagineDenver2020.org for more information.




Pictured:  Ginger White, Deputy Director of Denver Arts & Venues, addresses the Denver Commission on Cultural Affairs, A&V staff and Team Corona.



State of Our Cities & Towns 2014: Transportation

We were honored to work with the Colorado Municipal League (CML) for the fifth year on their annual report (PDF), State of Our Cities and Towns.  Starting this year, the organization has decided to do a deep investigation into a different issue each year. They started with transportation  issues this year and you can expect  future reports on other important issues facing towns and cities in the coming years. To read a quick overview of transportation issues in Colorado, you can view their annual summary report (pdf)

There are nearly 16,000 miles of city streets in Colorado … and every mile is essential to deliver groceries to the store on the corner, get children to school, connect to work, and home. 

To complement the report, CML also produced an easy to digest video highlighting the key themes from this year’s survey findings. The short video is a great way to communicate the important information to a statewide audience.



Statler Brothers’ Class of ’57

Four decades ago, the Statler Brothers won a Grammy for their song “The Class of ‘57”.  I heard it the other day, and it’s a great song. Via the magic of Youtube, here it is if you’d like a listen:

It’s also an interesting song if you’re into demographics, because the lyrics provide a little non-scientific insight into the economy and work force of the Class of 1957.  Have a quick read.

Tommy’s selling used cars, Nancy’s fixing hair,
Harvey runs a grocery store and Margaret doesn’t care.
Jerry drives a truck for Sears and Charlotte’s on the make,
And Paul sells life insurance and part time real estate.

Helen is a hostess, Frank works at the mill,
Janet teaches grade school and prob’ly always will.
Bob works for the city and Jack’s in lab research,
And Peggy plays the organ at the Presbyterian Church.

And the class of ’57 had its dreams,
Oh, we all thought we’d change the world with our great words and deeds.
Or maybe we just thought the world would change to fit our needs,
The class of ’57 had its dreams.

Betty runs a trailer park, Jan sells Tupperware,
Randy’s on an insane ward, Mary’s on welfare.
Charlie took a job with Ford, Joe took Freddie’s wife,
Charlotte took a millionaire, and Freddie took his life.

John is big in cattle, Ray is deep in debt,
Where Mavis finally wound up is anybody’s bet.
Linda married Sonny, Brenda married me,
And the class of all of us is just a part of history.

And the class of ’57 had its dreams,
But living life from day to day is never like it seems.
Things get complicated when you get past eighteen,
But the class of ’57 had its dreams.
Oh, the class of ’57 had its dreams.

A lot of these jobs still exist, of course, and prob’ly always will.  Teachers, personal service providers, truck drivers, government workers, and more.  So has anything changed?

Our access to census data is missing with the federal shutdown, but we have some good Colorado data, and we calculated the number of people working in different occupations in Colorado.  Retail salesperson is the #1 occupation in the state, so we’ve got Tommy and Jan covered.  And “Miscellaneous Managers” at #2 probably covers Harvey and Betty.  Jerry’s driving job falls at #7, and Janet’s teaching comes in at #8.  So much of the Class of ’57 worked at jobs that have withstood the test of time.

Other jobs are less common, but still thriving.  Helen’s hostess job comes in at #27, Nancy’s hair styling gig is #56 on the list, and Paul’s life insurance job comes in at #72.  Depending on his specialty, Jack’s occupation could range from #127 (Miscellaneous Physical Scientist) to #431 (Agriculture and Food Scientist).

Farther down the list, John is in a niche field, and his supervisory job in agriculture is ranked #314 among Colorado occupations.  Frank at the mill might be a little concerned for his job today, as millwrights come in at #386, and I suspect they’re less common now than they were back in his day.

Perhaps more interesting are the modern jobs that are missing from the Class of ’57.  Some of Colorado’s most common occupations today didn’t exist in significant numbers for the class of ’57, such as Customer Service Representatives (#5 today), Home Health Aides (#16), and software developers (#24).  Perhaps Mary can get some training for one of those positions so she can get off welfare.

On a sociological note, another common occupation these days is child care worker (#22 on the list).  This field has grown over the past half-century due in large part to the increasing participation of women in the workforce, and probably didn’t exist in appreciable numbers in 1957.  If we revisit the lyrics, it looks like the workforce participation rate of the women of the Statlers’ Class of ’57 is below 50%, depending on how you count a few of them.  With the modern female labor force rate exceeding 72 percent for working-age women, we would likely see a few of them working in software or child care these days instead of playing the organ or becoming homemakers.

However, in the end we certainly can’t fault Charlotte’s strategy of being “on the make” and subsequently marrying a millionaire.  Because hey, we can’t all be big in cattle.


What seniors want from open space

Corona Insights recently helped sponsor the Colorado Open Space Alliance: 2013 Conference in the beautiful hamlet of Crested Butte, Colorado.  More land managers and natural resource professionals attended this year’s conference than any year prior, demonstrating both the success of the conference organizers and the growing field of open space, natural areas, and landscape conservation in Colorado.  This year’s conference was energetic, inspiring, and full of camaraderie, and Corona Insights was proud to help sponsor such an event.

We were also happy to share some insights and implications we uncovered while conducting research for a Front Range open space agency this summer.  We surveyed county senior citizens to understand their desire to recreate on open space, satisfaction of their recent visits, preferences for amenities and trail management, and what makes it difficult to access open space.  Understanding what this segment of the population thinks is important because the proportion of Coloradoans older than 64 is projected to increase by 7.8 percent over the next 15 years.

Some of our findings were expected (e.g., most seniors go hiking or walking when visiting open space) but other results were surprising.  For example, most seniors prefer hiking on trails made of dirt and rock, rather than gravel trails or paved trails.  Seniors are also most likely to prefer trails that are wide enough for two people to walk side-by-side and least likely to prefer trails that are wide enough for only one person at a time.  These results will inform resource and recreation planners, landscape architects, and other staff about what trail policies and amenities seniors prefer.

If your agency or department needs to know what your constituents prefer, need, want, or do, give us a call and see what Corona Insights can uncover for you.

Making the Most of Our Money

Scientists and researchers like to think that if our leaders would only stick to the facts, the data would make many of our hard decisions for us.  Unfortunately, some of the most contentious debates don’t hinge solely on facts – sometimes because of insufficient data, sometimes because values are at play.  However, data has a solid role to play in narrowing down the available options in our decision sets.

For many problems that we want to solve (e.g., homelessness, addiction, threats of hurricane damage, disease, you name it) a variety of organizations have developed potential solutions that attack each problem from different angles.  Determining which of the solutions to each problem are effective requires evaluation.  When there is a limited amount of funding to go around evaluation is particularly important and helps organizations compete for funding.

A recent article in The Atlantic encourages more use of evaluation in government decision making.  In particular, the authors advocate evaluating our program and policy efforts to see whether they are achieving the desired outcomes. Their advice is to start with “collecting more information on what works and what doesn’t”, make sure results are communicated systematically to lawmakers, and then hold lawmakers accountable for achieving a results-driven government.

We regularly help our clients to evaluate their efforts.  We help them to determine what’s working and what isn’t, and measure their impacts in the community.  This information is useful for all funders, not just the government.  And it’s also worth noting that the government funds a great deal of activities beyond social programs (in fact, social programs make up only a tiny sliver of the small piece of pie allotted to discretionary spending), but evaluation and other research methods can be applied to make the most of those other dollars too, as the Atlantic article also notes.