Research and Consultancy

Research and consultancy is where we started and it’s where we continue to lead. We work with organisations to understand their specific research needs or to help define them. We then shape the research project and put the right team and methodology in place.

Our approach is individual – each research project is unique and we take the time to build great relationships with the people delivering the work. It’s this that makes for a richer research experience, improved knowledge and insights that can be easily translated into actions.

Our services What we can do for you

We offer a range of research and evaluation methods and apply these in bespoke ways that are helpful to all sectors who want to understand the impact of their service, provision, or project.

Substance’s research team is committed to work that enables organisations to deliver positive social change. We do this by providing data and insights that help organisations develop, improve and work better for all.

We are interested in how organisations across many sectors can bring about positive change for communities and society as a whole. This can be through improved well-being, health, participation in sport/physical activity, youth development, environmental impacts, economic impacts or addressing inequalities.

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  • Research question and project design
  • Theory of Change
  • Impact frameworks
  • Impact tool development
  • SROI frameworks
  • SDG mapping frameworks
  • Quantitative Research:
    • Surveys (audience, participants, stakeholders, staff)
    • Data analysis (statistical, exploratory, descriptive) and visualisation
    • App data collection
    • Data upload portals and storage sites/dashboards
    • Social media tracking (e.g., Social Servers)
  • Qualitative Research:
    • Interviews (face-to-face and online)
    • Focus Groups (face-to-face and online)
    • Participant observation
    • Digital qualitative tools
    • Digital platforms and safe spaces
  • Research engagement:
    • Participant recruitment
    • Participant engagement (diary panels, research ambassadors, citizen science)
    • Youth Voice research
    • Building evaluative capacity (e.g., reflective practice, sensemaking, communities of practice)
  • Secondary data collection
    • Literature reviews
    • Documentary and strategic reviews
  • Statistical (descriptive, inferential, exploratory)
  • Qualitative (content, thematic) using NVivo and other tools
  • Social Return on Investment
  • Mapping data, systems, networks
  • Benchmarking
  • Analysis of external or supplementary datasets, such as population or organisational data
  • Full research reports in a variety of styles
  • Infographic reports and other data visualisation
  • Provision of raw and statistical datasets
  • Presentation decks
  • Mapping
  • Bespoke dashboards for live data review

We have a highly skilled team to deliver these approaches, made up of experienced researchers and scientists.


Angling and outdoor recreation


Sports and physical activities


Improving the lives of young people

Research and Consultancy Case Studies

The Research and Consultancy Team

The team has a wide variety of experience and backgrounds, including social, environmental and sports science.

We are experienced in delivering qualitative and quantitative research and committed to delivering outputs that meet clients’ needs – whether they be highly engaging visual summaries or detailed scientific reports for government bodies.

We are passionate about harnessing data to effectively demonstrate the impact organisations are having to bring about positive social change.

Dr Gavin Mellor
Dr Gavin MellorDirector of Data & Insight

His research interests focus on the use of sport for social development, and he specialises in developing data strategies for large organisations and national programmes. Gavin has managed and contributed to several high-profile research projects for clients including Sport England, the Premier League Charitable Fund, the English Football League and UEFA. Gavin also helps to manage technical developments for Substance including its Views system.

Why Gavin works for Substance

“I became a founder member of Substance because I believe in making research and insight useful for organisations delivering social interventions. My work is focused on breaking down traditional barriers between research and practice and supporting organisations to embed good quality data collection and reflective practice in their everyday operations. Outside of work, I spend most of my time listening to music from the late 1960s and early 1970s and supporting Stoke City FC.”

Dr Kath Edgar
Dr Kath EdgarHead of Research

Kath also has over 20 years of experience of evidencing the impact of sport, physical activity and movement on individuals, communities and wider society. Demonstrating the link between youth interventions and wider personal and societal outcomes, is one of her main research interests. Kath holds a PhD in criminology and sociology with a specific focus on the influence of policy and collaborative strategic partnerships on crime prevention outcomes.

Kath currently leads the evaluation of the Sport England Local Pilot and GM Moving in Manchester as well as the evaluation of the GM Physical Activity, Health & Social Care Integration work and the Chances youth outcomes programme.

Kath provides consultancy and advisory support to organisations seeking to develop impact-led strategies through the creation of Theory of Change models, Outcome Indicator Frameworks and bespoke measurement tools. For ten years Kath was the Northwest Evaluation Network steering group convenor and currently sits on the UKES North steering group.

Dr Samantha A. Hook
Dr Samantha A. HookSenior Researcher

While at Substance she has applied her knowledge on marine related projects such as the Sea Angling Diary, the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) Sea Angler Project and Catchwise. She has expanded her skills into social sciences and research such as qualitative and quantitative analysis and modelling. She has also worked on large event impact evaluation and economic and social studies. Samantha has led and contributed to peer-review papers including the impacts of COVID on angler health and wellbeing (Hook et al. 2021) and continues to contribute to the scientific community. She is currently leading the Defra funded Catchwise project and a study on quantifying the social and economic benefits of recreational sea angling, among other work.

Dr Johannes Langer
Dr Johannes LangerSenior Researcher

Johannes currently works on several multi-year evaluation projects in the physical activity and youth sectors. These include the evaluation of GM Moving in Manchester and the Chances Social Impact Bond. Other work has focused on BBC Children in Need’s projects and data insights, and the statistical analysis of programmes’ impact and outcomes achievement. Johannes has previously carried out research on young refugees and political attitudes. His wider experience and research interests include social inequality, racism and political extremism, social value estimations, and the analysis of complex longitudinal or multi-level datasets.

Joe Williams
Joe WilliamsResearch Analyst

Joe specialises in qualitative data collection and analysis. He also has experience working on mixed method projects, ranging from youth/family engagement to major sporting events and national governing bodies. Joe is currently Operational Lead on the Sport England Club Matters Evaluation and is involved in many research projects focused on sport, physical activity and social impact.

Charlie Grosset
Charlie GrossetResearcher

They are experienced in creative qualitative methods, stakeholder engagement, data handling, analysis and data visualisation. Key areas of research work would focus on social impact, through a methodological focus on Social Return on Investment and the relationship of identity and inequality in access and experience of services. His wider research interests include disability, cultural diversity and qualitative methodologies.

Grace Farrell
Grace FarrellResearcher

Grace worked at the university in a research support role across the Faculty of Social Sciences. After working within academia, Grace is interested in the real life application of research analysis and evaluation. Outside of work, she enjoys music, reading, and walks in the Peak District.

Eric Lockett Cooke
Eric Lockett CookeResearch Analyst

Eric’s expertise lies in conducting end to end evaluations, data analysis, both qualitative and quantitative, as well as producing data visualisations.
He is currently supporting on a number of projects primarily focusing on the intersections of wellbeing, physical activity and mental health. His broader interests include disparities in healthcare access, equal opportunities in education and sustainability.

Livia Capparelli
Livia CapparelliResearch Analyst

Following a career as a professional football player, she worked as a consultant for international aid. Her research experience includes agriculture and development, specifically in East Africa. Livia is passionate about social equality, gender empowerment, and inclusive opportunities. Outside of work, she enjoys a game of chess and playing the piano.

Provide a better service to your audience and society.

We can provide unbiased, evidence-based understanding, to help you adapt and grow your organisation to provide a better service to your audience and society.