Monthly Archives: June 2012

Unilever QRC Accreditation to Meet “with limited success and acceptance”

Recently, we posted here about a new Unilever initiative to provide accredidation to ensure that their qualitative research consultants posess the skills Unilever requires.

As one of the leading qualitative associations, QRCA has long discussed the notion of Qualitative Researcher Accreditation.  J.R. Harris is an industry veteran, a founding QRCA member, former President and long-standing Chair of the QRCA Professionalism Committee.  He and his committee have studied and re-studied qualitative accreditation ideas and proposals over the years.  I sent him a copy of the article about the Unilever Accreditation Programme.

The following is an email that JR sent to me about this article and Unilever’s attempts to accreditate qualitative researchers.  I have reproduced it here in its entirety with JR’s permission.

Thanks for sending the article. I’m sure you will not be surprised that I do have a few comments.

The notion of “certifying,” “credentialing” or “accrediting” QRCs is not a new one. Like Halley’s Comet, this initiative seems to reappear consistently and reliably every few years. QRCA’s Professionalism Committee, which I chaired, has thoroughly investigated this issue on more than one occasion and the organization has always decided not to pursue it. Furthermore, efforts by other research organizations to certify members of our profession have met with very limited success and acceptance. I believe this same destiny awaits Unilever, for the following reasons:

1– Unilever’s program is based on a “growing concern” within the company regarding the “quality of the qual work being delivered” yet they don’t specify what concerns or shortcomings they are experiencing from their QRCs. How can they be sure that a certification program will eliminate these concerns?

2– Their program is too subjective in nature. To qualify for accreditation, QRCs are evaluated by “independent assessors” who would examine an applicant’s “mock brief” and observe the 1-hour focus group based on that brief.  Our investigation has shown that any effective credentialing program is typically based on specific professional criteria that the applicant must possess, as evidenced by passing a standardized test, completing specified curricula, etc.

3– The Unilever program is based on the applicant’s skill at moderating one in-person focus group. While the focus group is arguably the mainstay of qualitative research, there are many other important qualitative methodologies that are not included in the Unilever program.

4– QRCA’s investigation of credentialing has shown that their is neither a need nor a demand for it. Research buyers around the world have insisted that they are quite capable of selecting knowledgeable and competent QRCs to conduct their research. They have also indicated their belief that using a certified QRC would not guarantee quality of work or success of the project.

5– The Unilever program, as described, seems out of touch with the realities of qualitative research and the technological and methodological changes in our industry. Nevertheless, using only certified QRCs will make it easier for the company to buy its qualitative research via the Purchasing Dept. rather than the Research Dept.

If research buyers like Unilever want to work with highly skilled and experienced qual researchers, they don’t need a certification program. All they need to do is be aware of the QRCA Professional Competencies of Qualitative Research Consultants. Not only would they appreciate the eleven specific competencies that define our profession, but they would easily be able to match the skill sets of the QRC to the type of project they wish to conduct. I believe this would give them more confidence in the QRCs they select, as well as better outcomes from those who are selected.

QRCA’s Professional Competencies document can be found here.

MRA on the Upswing

Last week, I was thrilled to be inducted along with Janet Baldi‘ Senior VP of RTI Research, to the Board of Directors of the Marketing Research Association (MRA).   It was an honor to be nominated and to be elected.   This is an incredibly exciting time to be involved with MRA because of the amazing leadership, and in some cases sacrifice, that has been the MRA Board in the past few years.

MRA is an association on the upswing.  As I noted here a year ago, there is a noticeable sense of mission and energy with MRA that indicates strong leadership and purpose.  Leadership changes everything.  Your MRA leadership has made some difficult decisions and executed them well over the past couple of years.  Here are a few that caught my eye:

  • Hired David Almy as Executive Director.  Obviously David is a leader and visionary.
  • Moved the headquarters to Washington, DC.  This move made a bold statement that MRA was serious about representing the industry in the halls of Congress.  The move also positioned MRA among a wealth of association management talent so that the Associations’ leadership needs can be met for years to come.
  • Reduced the side of the Board of Directors from 18 to 11.  The Board was simply too large to be agile.  Several Board members were selfless in voting for the reduction and the elimination of their own seats.
  • Repositioning the “Fall Conference” as the “Corporate Researcher’s Conference.”  Not only does the conference now have a clear target market, the change boldly focused MRA on its greatest perceived weakness, the inclusion of research buyers.  (Did you know Corporate Researchers are 1/3 of MRA members?)  Now research buyers are involved and several serve on the Board.  MRA will now truly serve all facets of the market research community.

So, I am honored and a bit awed to be elected to the Board of an organization that is so clearly on the move.  Its an exciting time to be a part of this organization.  I can only hope to continue the legacy of the leaders who have made such dramatic and forward-thinking decisions before me.  The actions of these MRA leaders have ushered in an era of promise and possibilities.

Thank you to those MRA leaders who have laid the groundwork and sowed the seeds of a new era for MRA industry leadership.

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