Introducing Cohorts

Today marks the launch of Cohorts, a service of Ad Hoc that allows us to conduct incisive research with groups of relevant people to make government digital services work better for all. There are two components to Cohorts — finding the right people and conducting the right research.

On the people side, we have a system for recruiting, managing, and rewarding Cohorts members. The software we built is based on the Kimball project from the Smart Chicago Collaborative. My Ad Hoc colleague Chris Gansen and I created Kimball back in 2012 to support the launch of the CUTGroup, which was a new model for UX testing, digital skills development, and community engagement in civic tech. We forked the code for Kimball, modified it for Cohorts, and re-published it as open source.

On the research side, Cohorts is at the center of our growing user research practice. Our full-time researchers, along with our partners and clients, conduct interviews with Americans all over the country about broad topics like Veterans and their health, clinicians and quality measures, and specific interface questions around the text on a login screen. We do this work in the context of large projects for our existing clients, and we also offer smaller, research-only engagements.

When we invented CUTGroup for Smart Chicago, we sought to establish “sustained, meaningful collaboration with residents around the data and technology”. My colleagues and I came to see it as a new model for UX testing, digital skills development, and community engagement in civic tech, and we published a book describing the methods in detail. The CUTGroup work continues at Smart Chicago with Kyla Williams as interim executive director and Sonja Marziano running CUTGroup with her own vision. They are spreading their work across the country.

Here at Ad Hoc, with Cohorts, we’re seeking to solve different problems:

  • How to source relevant people to give feedback on government websites that serve millions of people
  • How to support long-term development projects that evolve dozens of products over the course of multi-year contracts with shifting business rules
  • How to help grow and sustain an independent user research practice through software that serves the unique needs of a set of professional researchers
  • How to allow product owners across federal, state, and local governments improve human-centered design with quick sprints of research that are not tied to large engineering projects run by Ad Hoc

We need your help. There are a number of ways you can help us launch Cohorts:

  • Sign up for Cohorts and encourage others to do the same. We are looking for people who encounter and interact with government and their digital services regularly in their daily lives and find themselves frustrated by the experience.
  • If you work in government helping to create digital services and are attending SXSW, we’d love to talk to you about our user research service. Come meet us at the panel, How Digital Identity is Enabling Access to the VA. 3:30PM – 4:30PM at the Hilton. Ad Hoc CEO Greg Gershman will be on that panel. Or you can just hit up Greg, Dan, or Leanna
  • Share Cohorts on Facebook especially with Veterans and medical professionals. We have immediate research needs around people who receive veterans benefits and submit quality care data to CMS.

More to come on the team, the software, and the processes behind Cohorts.