Meet the team

Skyblue’s Team comprises a small core of full time permanent research staff and  a network of long-established associates with specialist subject matter or research methods expertise.

Alan Graver, MMRS, Managing Director Skyblue Research Ltd

Alan has been a senior director of three research companies since his career started in 1991. A marketer and market researcher by profession, he has used his time as Managing Director at Skyblue since 2007 to deepen his evaluative, commercial and organisational development skills for the benefit of research programmes he designs and leads. With a keen eye for the strategic opportunity in most situations, Alan has provided counsel to clients seeking to improve what they do for others and is able to provide independent, fair, reliable and actionable critique to progress. He has a flair for building business cases that galvanise partnerships to tackle issues thought too difficult to solve.

Married to Donna and with their two children Adam and Amber, Alan is a dedicated family man. He lives in York and enjoys nothing more than rambling in North Yorkshire. Determined to give back to this wider community he takes immense pride in being Vice Chair of North Yorkshire Sport, a charity determined to help people become more physically and mentally active and healthy. In this role he has helped launch initiatives and sourced funding to create more equal opportunities for people with impairments or who find themselves in challenging situations. This has helped them take their first steps in to positive activity, through volunteering and often in to employment.

Amber Graver, Research Executive

A straight A student, Amber is now in her second full year as a social researcher with Skyblue where she makes an active contribution to gathering and synthesising evidence about what works for trusts, foundations and charities who have a concern for saving lives, and the planet. In order to help clients improve their impact practice, Amber undertakes systematic literature reviews and rapid evidence assessments. Her rigorous attention to detail and flair for identifying trends and patterns helps ensure that the theories of change, impact frameworks and indicator sets that we co-design with organisations are grounded and practical. With a growing skill-set in qualitative techniques, especially face to face interviews with people facing challenging circumstances, Amber is the ‘smiling face’ of Skyblue, hard-working and committed to making a difference for anyone we work with.

Amber believes animal welfare is crucial to understand, and is a great passion of hers inside and outside of the office. As a result of volunteering with the RSPCA York, Harrogate and Surroundings Branch for 6 months, she has recently progressed into being an Educational Officer for the organisation, a role that Amber will be fulfilling in 2018. As a trained speaker, she will visit schools to deliver sessions to KS2 children with the aim of inspiring and encouraging future generations of pet owners to engage in the 5 welfare needs of an animal, to understand the animal testing industry, to know both the difference between and consequences of deliberate cruelty/ neglect, and more generally to highlight the actions young people can take to help animals at home, at school and in their local  communities.

Donna Graver, Skyblue Research Financial Director

Donna is responsible for Skyblue’s financial, HR, employment law and contract administration processes. As Director and Company Secretary Donna has a range of valuable support skills routinely provided to all our clients and contracts.

An integral part of this family-run business, Donna has key interests in physical activity (most recently kick-boxing) and health and wellbeing. She is involved in supporting our proactive approach to managing mental health in the workplace and ensures that there are well organised social events to balance the hard work that everyone at Skyblue undertakes.

Paul Rhodes, Director of Research

Paul has spent over 20 years developing expertise in research and evaluation. His focus as Director of Research & Policy at Skyblue has been working with charities, trusts and foundations to tell their stories with increasing confidence. 

Research and evaluation to support disabled people is an area of especial interest. He has a particular passion for qualitative research, participatory techniques and observation to programmes and initiatives to life through the words of those involved. An engaging presenter, Paul enjoys communicating change and supporting teams to develop new evaluation capabilities.

When not spending time with his young family, Paul works with Accessible Arts & Media, a York charity that uses the Arts to support disabled people to become involved in their communities, and lends his hands and photographic eye to support York Cemetery’s conservation and fundraising work.

Mike Dwyer Construction and Built Environment Consultant

Over a period of some 40 years working in the construction industry and related sectors Mike has worked at all levels, starting out life as a trainee surveyor and progressing through many years of site work and major projects to business development and main board director roles.

Mike’s working history has involved wide ranging experience operating at senior management level with diverse stakeholders to deliver customer satisfaction. Most recently he has held senior management posts within the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) a Non Departmental Government Body which is the Sector Skills Council and Industrial Training Board for Construction and the Built Environment.

As a former main board director of a UK public quoted company with responsibility for a number of differing operating units, Mike has delivered success at many levels and developed his leadership skills and management accountability to meet the demands of such businesses. He has had responsibility for major projects and company operations employing over 300 staff and with annual budgets in excess of £80 million delivering against focused business targets and with clear key performance indicators.

Mike has held managerial positions in both National and International roles and worked throughout the UK, Africa, Middle East, Asia and the USA. 

Oliver Kempton, Senior Partner, Envoy Partnership (Social Return On Investment)

Oliver is an economist and is Skyblue's specialist in terms of SROI. He is an assessor for the SROI Network, and is a visiting tutor in SROI at Goldsmiths College, University of London. Oliver has worked on several projects with the Skyblue team since 2011. These include evaluations of Dame Kelly Holmes Trusts’ Get on Track project, and Creative and Cultural Skills EIF Funded Apprenticeships. Oliver is also working with Imperial War Museum North and Manchester Museum to evaluate the effectiveness and impact of a volunteering programme aimed at getting 16-24 year olds, over 50s, and ex-service personnel into museum volunteering roles.Oliver shares the same values as Skyblue in helping organisations maximise the value of social impact evaluation and for embedding best practice within organisations. He is training staff at the Children’s Society to embed social impact evaluation within their project management and continues to be a major contributor to our social, economic research. 

Sarah Eley

Sarah lives in Yorkshire and has worked in marketing since 1986, having graduated with a BA Honours in Linguistics.

She holds qualifications from both the Chartered Institute of Marketing and Market Research Society and is a regular Skyblue associate on qualitative research and evaluation projects. Much of this has involved work for organisations wanting to understand and communicate the value of their enterprise, both to their existing and potential audiences, current funders, and in their quest to support applications for future funding. 

A lifelong learner, Sarah has been studying Spanish for some years and since her actor son left home, has taken up (his) ukulele. She is especially keen on built and natural heritage, animals and the arts.

John Wooldridge, Research Executive

In his role as a Research Executive, John is involved in a wide range of data collection and analysis approaches. He is responsible for the analysis of large datasets from quantitative projects and he is proficient in conducting tests of association and the use of a number of quantitative computer programmes.

Whilst at university John worked in the call centre of a large research company and is a trained telephone interviewer. He regularly works on projects involving the completion of depth telephone surveys with businesses and individuals. He is also developing an impressive skillset in ethnography to complement some of the other qualitative techniques practiced at Skyblue. 

John holds an MSc in Social Policy (Research) from the London School of Economics, so has received world leading tuition in social research practices.  He is currently conducting his own PhD project looking at the effects of drugs in prison, a topic he became interested in whilst volunteering in a drug treatment centre during his studies. Coupled with his own academic research study, John also receives particular enjoyment from imparting knowledge to others, so he teaches at the University of Leeds on both undergraduate and postgraduate courses relating to research methods. Teaching is on both quantitative and qualitative methods and he gets a real thrill from seeing students succeed.  

In his spare time, John likes to keep fit and regularly goes running and swimming – a personal target for 2018 is to complete a 10k run in under 45 minutes!