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UIC Business Marketing Research Class Collaborates with Nonprofit Revolution Institute on Survey Project

UIC Business PhD student Serkan Saka

Last summer, PhD student Serkan Saka’s Marketing Research (MKTG 462) class collaborated with Camille Levi, director of Business Development at the Revolution Institute (RI), on a project that yielded tremendous results for the nonprofit organization. Primarily serving the African American and Latinx communities of Chicago’s south and west sides, RI’s mission is to address the wealth gap in the workforce development and social enterprise space. It is dedicated to advancing social and economic equity, as well as peaceful communities for all people. Camille states, “Overall, we are very pleased with how the class constructed the survey and executed the research.” Serkan and Camille became connected through Cordelia Callaway’s work with the UIC Core Civic Engagement Group. G. Sequanne Lawrence serves as President and CEO of the Revolution Institute. Read more about this collaboration.

Serkan Saka Provides Insights into the Collaboration Between the Revolution Institute and His UIC Business Marketing Research Class Heading link

What are the key concepts covered in your marketing research class?

In class, we cover concepts that relate to designing research with both qualitative and quantitative methods, understanding primary and secondary data sources, and analyzing research as well as creative approaches to present data via storytelling.

What is the value of marketing research for a nonprofit?

Marketing research brings a lot of value for non-profits. Non-profits run a tight budget and are often forced to be efficient with their resources. Marketing research can help non-profits understand their donors’ demographics, preferences, and sentiments towards campaigns, resulting in more effective ways to reach them.

Describe the Revolution Institute’s marketing research project that your class worked on this past summer.

My class had a fantastic opportunity to work with a Chicago-based non-profit, Revolution Institute, on a marketing research project. The goal of the research was to assist Revolution Institute in their mission in advancing social and economic equity for all people. Students conducted marketing research on the economic stability and financial knowledge of families and individuals in Chicago.

How did your class formulate its approach to working on the marketing research project? 

The course is designed in such a way to build upon ‘just-in-time’ learning so that once a chapter is discussed, students have fresh in their minds on how to apply that knowledge. The class first had to develop research objectives that would help frame the way research would be conducted. Then, students utilized primary research by conducting a survey which included 40 questions, with a mix of multiple choice and open ended. Along the way, students would collaborate with the Revolution Institute along with myself and ensure the survey aligned with the goals of the research project. The survey questions combined qualitative and quantitative methods and included questions that would help to understand factors that interfere with a family’s ability to attain financial stability. Finally, the students analyzed the results and presented them to the Revolution Institute with a formal report.

Describe the marketing research results that your class delivered to the Revolution Institute.

The results that my class delivered to Revolution Institute were impressive and quite fascinating. Students created an executive report and were required to develop visuals to help bring the narration to life. Insights were broken up by research question. Results showed that 76% of respondents believe education is an important factor to economic stability.

Digging deeper, open ended responses showed debt (student loan and credit card debt) to be the biggest prohibitor of economic stability. In addition, results showed that many participants realized current wages are not sustainable. Therefore, to better understand the ways non-profit groups such as Revolution Institute can support economic stability, participants pointed to a desire for increased financial literacy and empowerment as a way to achieve economic independence.

One aspect that stuck out to me in the report was the way students were able to connect these primary research findings with studies/articles on financial literacy across national media outlets. In the report, a quote from Harvard economist Raj Chetty stated, “Growing up in a community connected across class lines improves kids’ outcomes and gives them a better shot at rising out of poverty.” Students in my class understood that research should be triangulated across various sources. They believe, both from their findings along with secondary data sources, that having friends and acquaintances from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds can drastically improve chances of economic stability, which is information that can be utilized by non-profit organizations like Revolution Institute.

Please share any additional thoughts about the experience that you and your students had while collaborating with the Revolution Institute.

Personally, I had a wonderful experience working directly with Camille and her colleagues at the Revolution Institute. Camille and I had interacted several times before exploring ways to implement this research project in class. Since the course was only 8 weeks and primarily online, we were required to strategize to maximize value to both the students’ experiences and Revolution Institute’s time. In all, I’ve heard excellent feedback from students on this project as many of them found the scope of the project to be rewarding and it allowed them to apply knowledge learned in the course into something productive and meaningful, even more so that Revolution Institute was locally based. I look forward to working with Camille and the Revolution Institute in future classes.

Many thanks to Kim Moon and Dr. Benet DeBerry-Spence for their support of this collaboration between the Revolution Institute and the UIC Business marketing department and to Camille Levi and G. Sequanne Lawrence of the Revolution Institute for the opportunity.