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The next act for OPERA: Part 2—How do we get there?

April 24, 2018
In figuring out the future direction of our support on OPERA—the framework designed by CESR that supports policy-based human rights research—we would first like to deepen our understanding of who, beyond our immediate circle of partners, is currently using it, or its related methodological tools, and how. We’re inviting interested collaborators to sign up to learn more about getting involved in the OPERA House project, which does just that.
We will adopt a consultative, inclusive approach to the project, based on human-centered, co-design principles. That means deep diving into research that encourages collective brainstorming on open-ended questions, allowing us to learn directly about what is really needed from the activists whom OPERA is ultimately serving. In so doing, our hope is to build up an invested community of collaborators who will be actively involved in the eventual design of future resources on OPERA
Like many organizations within the human rights community, explicitly building “design thinking” principles into the research process is quite a new approach for us. We’re excited to try it and grateful to count on the guidance of experts in this area. 
We’re planning a series of collaborative activities over coming months, which, combined, create a process that is flexible, yet rigorous. The project will involve in-depth discussions with our partners and allies to learn about their existing research approaches; how they currently use or would like to use data; their experience of using OPERA, if applicable; and the most pressing methodological challenges facing their work that OPERA could potentially help address. This engagement will involve a mix of targeted outreach with organizations we already engage with and open calls for expressions of interest from organizations we could build new engagements with. We’re interested in talking to people who only know a little about OPERA, as well as those who know a lot. 
Some of the questions we’re hoping for feedback on include:
How does your organization approach research on economic and social rights? What do you find the most interesting and the most challenging about undertaking human rights research? 
Have you read about OPERA? Which aspects of it resonated? Which raised questions? 
Have you used OPERA in your work? If so, what was your experience like? If not, what additional guidance would help you to use OPERA? 
Have you used indicators and benchmarks, quantitative data, or budget analysis in your work? If so, what was your experience like? If not, what additional guidance would help you to use them?
In asking these questions, our aim isn’t to solicit praise for OPERA—although that’s also very welcome, of course! We want to explore and test our assumptions about the capacities and constraints of current and potential users of OPERA and its related methodological tools, to get a clearer picture of their needs and priorities. So, constructive criticism is especially encouraged. Collaborating with us on this will help to ensure future resources on OPERA are well tailored and will provide an opportunity to connect to and compare notes with others in the meantime.  
There are various ways to get involved in the project, none of which involve an onerous time commitment. These include:
Joining an informal community call, which we’ll hold throughout the project to share and get feedback on emerging insights. Our first call will take place on May 2, 2018, at 9.30 EST, inviting reactions to the project overall, questions about its methods, suggestions for things we should be thinking about etc. 
Contributing a guest blog that shares an experience of using OPERA or of facing a methodological challenge. Please get in touch if you fall in this category. We’d love to feature a blog from you! 
Participating in a short survey or interview. The findings of this research will be written up and shared widely, through a discussion paper and a series of reflective blogs. 
We’re setting up an OPERA House mailing list for sharing details about the community calls, further information about guest blogs, and updates about the survey and interviews. Thoughts, suggestions and questions on any aspect of this project or CESR’s work in this area are also welcomed on the mailing list or by emailing Sign up here.
Special  thanks go to Dirk Slater, of FabRiders, for his comments on drafts of these blogs, and to Chris Michael, of Collaborations for Change, for his invaluable guidance throughout the process of conceptualizing the project.