I have previously discussed the four questions facing applied sociologists. These questions refer to how we utilise sociological theories, methods and principles in our work, and the challenges and opportunities we encounter practising sociology outside academia. In brief, these questions are:
- Sociology for What? That is, why are we doing sociology and what are the "real life" constraints in which we produce our work?
- Sociology for Whom? Who are our users or audiences and how do we tailor our outputs for different stakeholders and clients?
- Sociology for Where? What place-related issues do we encounter in delivering sociological solutions for communities and clients?
- Sociology How? How do we actually carry out our research, activism or activities?
My post today for Sociology at Work addresses all these questions, through a specific focus: what is it like when applied sociologists work with differnent clients? As I mentioned previously on the S@W blog, there are not enough first-hand accounts of how applied sociologists navigate their work. Today I want to open up a conversation about how we manage our client relationships.
This post starts with an overview of the client work that applied sociologists carry out, by demonstrating how applied sociology differs from the industry projects undertaken by academics. I then share some of my general experiences working with clients in three contexts: as a researcher in the public service; as a private contractor; and as a consultant running my own business. I draw on my examples to reflect on the challenges and rewards of working as an applied sociologist. Later posts will focus on other aspects of applied work with clients, such as the types of sociological activities we carry out for clients in different industries.