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At ESRO, we approach research differently.
We are unafraid of complexity.

We believe that research should tell you exactly what people really think and do.

Nothing is more revealing than reality itself.

Our insights are grounded in the real world. We design research that reveals the reality of people’s lives.
Whether conducting focus groups, carrying out interviews or doing ethnography, we use ethnographic principles to guide us. We seek to understand context and explore behaviour, exposing the rich and nuanced ways people live their lives. Whenever possible we move beyond artificial research environments and contrived techniques.
Our research will challenge assumptions and reveal new opportunities, turning complex realities into powerful and actionable insights.

ESRO was founded in 2004 to bring an ethnographic approach to social and commercial research challenges. In our early years, when ethnography was still considered an exotic research option, we worked hard to communicate the benefits of our ‘real world’ research approach. This inevitably meant focussing on fieldwork because that was what clients found most challenging and exciting. Today, the process of capturing ethnographic data is more widely understood, and many research projects are said to include ‘ethnographic’ elements.

In reality, the fieldwork and raw video footage often dubbed ‘ethnography’ is only part of the story. Ethnography has always been more than a data capture technique. Taking an ethnographic approach does not confine researchers to specific research methods. Instead, it informs how they are selected and planned, and importantly, how the data is analysed.

We’re realists. We know that an ethnographic approach is not a practical response to every research challenge – but when the fit is right, it has advantages over more conventional approaches.

Respondent testimony is central to many qualitative research methods. Unfortunately respondents can only tell you why they do what they do if they are themselves conscious of the factors that influence them. Time and again we observe differences between respondent testimony and the facts of their lives, and we can do this because our approach to research involves more than asking questions and listening to the answers given.

Artificial research environments and closely defined research questions are created for good reasons, but they can sometimes mask the complexities of the real world, simplifying at the very moment when there is a need to expand. Taking the ethnographic approach enables us to see things as they really are, in all their glorious complexity. It is less prescriptive and more exploratory. It allows for researchers to adapt to respondents, rather than asking respondents to adapt to research. It also deliberately seeks to find answers to questions that could not have been conceived at the outset. In our experience, this is where groundbreaking and revolutionary insights lie, which, when you think about it, isn’t a big surprise.

Being unafraid of complexity is exactly where the power of our research comes from. It does not mean that we deliver in tomes; our reports and presentations get straight to the point. But it does mean that our findings are exciting. They can challenge and delight in equal measure. This is how we move our clients’ thinking forward; by enabling them to see old problems in new ways, by questioning long-held assumptions and by providing new platforms for innovation.

We believe research should make an impact and we know that our research does.