Posted by Shakima Jackson-Martinez on May 3, 2021

When the idea arises to explore inclusive research, the next question that usually surfaces is “How do I get my stakeholders on board?” Given the extra considerations needed to effectively execute research with underrepresented groups, it’s understandable that stakeholders will have questions. The most common are often, “Where do we begin?” and “What are the benefits?”

These questions present an opportunity to both emphasize the importance of inclusive research while also offering your team a comprehensive path forward in the form of a business case.

What is a business case and why should you create one?
A business case captures the reasoning for initiating a project or task, expected benefits, options considered and possible recommendations, and next steps. It could take the form of a document, presentation, or slide deck, but regardless of format, the goal is to showcase the project’s value to the organization and garner stakeholder support.

Your business case for inclusive research should align your stakeholders on the importance of this approach and present how it will improve your overall user experience.

Diverse crowd of people

Start with your internal commitments

Between the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing racial reckoning which was heightened in 2020, the overlap between societal events and corporate commitments has increased significantly. Last year, there were countless statements issued by corporate leaders decrying racism and encouraging social justice. In the tech sector alone, over $1 Billion was pledged in a single month to philanthropic organizations addressing racial disparities.

If your organization released a statement, donated, or committed internal resources to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts, then chances are, these issues are top of mind for internal influencers. If action steps are being taken to center the voices of underrepresented individuals within your workplace or community, you should advocate taking this a step further by also amplifying the diverse voices of your customers.

Understanding how DEI efforts are woven into your company objectives is a great place to start. Look for planned initiatives focused on an aspect of your users’ experience and determine whether inclusive research would help support or accelerate that effort.

4 Steps to Create Your Business Case for Inclusive UX Research

Infographic showing four steps: 1: Acknowledge the Default, 2: Outline the benefits, 3: Present the options, 4: Create an implementation plan

1. Acknowledge the default

When advocating for inclusive research, there must be a foundational understanding that structural inequalities still exist for Black, Indigenous, People of Color. Under the system in which we all live and function, BIPOC individuals are marginalized and whiteness is the baseline or the norm.

When whiteness is the default, the voices, experience, pain points, and needs of BIPOC individuals are often not centered and may present as an after-thought. Inclusive research pushes to amplify these voices and viewpoints as a critical part of the product development process. A big part of gaining stakeholder buy-in for inclusive research will be rooted in the team’s desire to challenge the default and make space for the marginalized.

2. Outline the benefits

When setting out to create your business case for inclusive research, you’ll want to have a clear understanding of how the findings may impact your product or service. Here are a few common benefits:

  • You’ll gather unique perspectives from users with varied backgrounds and lived experiences who may be using your product in ways you may not have anticipated, thus providing valuable insight to your team
  • You’ll have the opportunity to uncover features that may unintentionally harm or exclude certain users prior to launch
  • You’ll avoid potentially launching a product that includes culturally insensitive images, text, or references

Of course, these benefits will differ based on your product, service, or company, so you’ll want to spend some extra time customizing them to your team’s needs and goals. A popular approach to building a business case is highlighting the monetary benefits of the solution. If you are able to tie your research need to a potential profit or loss, then it may be helpful to incorporate this point. Some stakeholders will be motivated by social proof, presenting the opportunity to demonstrate how similar brands were either successful or missed the mark on inclusivity in their product development process.

3. Present the options

Incorporating inclusive research practices into your product development process can take on many forms and you should present various options to your stakeholder team. At a minimum, inclusive recruiting is encouraged to ensure you have diverse participant representation in your study. While this is a great start, a study designed to specifically focus on the experience underrepresented users have with your product will help you uncover more robust insights.

When evaluating your inclusive research options, you’ll also want to consider and highlight important factors such as time, budget, target populations, and internal resources.

4. Create an implementation plan

Crafting a clear implementation plan will be crucial in getting stakeholder approval for inclusive research. Your plan should include: 

  • The goal of the research
    What is the question this research would like to answer? It’s okay if this isn’t entirely clear from the beginning and the initial research is more exploratory in nature. 

  • An outline of how the research will be conducted based on your presented options
    This is your chance to flesh out how each of the inclusive research options you are presenting will contribute to a fully formed study. Our recent article on the Experience Gap provides a great outline on how to conduct this critical research.  

  • Resources necessary to successfully execute 
    Consider if your team should work with an outside consultancy experienced in inclusive research to guide you on this journey. If you decide to moderate in-house, would additional support or unconscious bias training help your researcher navigate the sessions with care?
  • Stakeholder involvement
    Outline who should take part in the research process and what their level of involvement will entail. Expectations should be set around timelines and deliverables that all team members can adhere to. 

Navigate Resistance and Fragility

As you are creating a business case for inclusive research you may encounter resistance in the form of stakeholders questioning if this research is even necessary since their product was “created for all”. You are likely encountering “white fragility,” a term coined by Robin D’Angelo in the book by the same name. The phrase refers to the defensiveness people, usually white, feel when someone asks them to consider race and inequality.

Resistance, while uncomfortable, can be expected in this situation. The best way to approach this resistance is to lean into it with inquiry. Ask the following questions:

  • What part of the inclusive research process is concerning to your team? 
  • How will your product improve if your research is more expansive and diverse? 
  • What could you potentially be overlooking if your research does not center underrepresented voices? 

Encouraging your stakeholders to have a dialogue will help all of you uncover potential roadblocks and create a collective path forward. 

While it may be possible to navigate resistance with inquiry, the fragility that arises from discussing the topics of equity, race, class, and gender may be harder to work through. The “white fragility" aspect refers to a broad range of responses—from confusion or complete dismissal—by white people in reaction to discussions on racism. 

Embarking on inclusive research will bring sensitive topics to the forefront and there may be times when it’s harder for your team to acknowledge the default and respond with empathy. In these moments it may be helpful to lean on your internal DEI staff to work through instances of defensiveness or denial that feel pervasive. These discussions will take a group effort and accountability to execute inclusive research so you’ll want to ensure there is foundational understanding and buy-in from all team members.

Bringing Inclusive UX Research to Life 

By following these steps, you’ll be able to craft a compelling business case for your stakeholders. You’ll want to arm yourself with the data necessary to answer the inevitable questions that will arise when choosing to prioritize marginalized voices. 

On your journey to inclusive research, remember the value of embracing differences. Simply put, inclusive research is about inviting people who are different to have a seat at the table. Your ultimate goal is to ensure that what is being served is equitable for all.

Contact us for help meeting your Experience Gap research goals.

Written by

Shakima Jackson-Martinez

Shakima Jackson-Martinez is the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Manager at AnswerLab where she creates, supports, manages, and measures DEI strategies and programs across the entire organization. Shakima has 10+ years of experience in Human Resources, Project Management, and Research Operations and is deeply passionate about creating spaces where people feel a true sense of belonging and the freedom to bring their whole selves to work.

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