Reflections on Judging the New MRII Emerging Markets Award

By Phyllis Macfarlane, ESOMAR Foundation 

I’ve always thought that the top three priorities of any Market Research organisation should be Education, Education and Education. At the end of the day we are only as good as our last project and only as strong as our people. Decades ago, researchers like myself had the advantage of joining a young sector, which was almost totally un-automated. We were building on the shoulders of statistical theory, and having to learn and innovate as we went along, but with everything to play for: the data we were able to provide our clients was totally new, and unique! Now young researchers, especially in emerging markets, have to somehow assimilate all that historical experience and knowledge, be up-to-date with the latest methods and techniques and aware of the alternative data sources—and then adapt it all to their own country’s circumstances. A very tall order!

Which is why ESOMAR, as a truly global insights association, is committed to supporting training and educational opportunities for regions that might have economic or other barriers. Hence our heartfelt support for this new MRII Emerging Markets Award for researchers in Latin America, Africa/Middle East, and Asia/Pacific—and our gratitude to OvationMR for their sponsorship and University of Georgia for their partnership.

I was lucky enough to be asked to join the illustrious panel of Judges. (At this point I do have to admit that I really do love judging awards—it always confirms in me my delight in the industry’s achievements and my amazement at all its talent. Plus, it keeps me completely up-to-date with current developments!)

In this case, the applications for the Award were a joy to read. Obviously, you would expect applicants to say the “right sort of things”—but always beyond that you can sense their individual stories, experience and ambitions. I look for personal commitment, specific interests, a wish to serve and support others, and a desire to promote the value of research. For an emerging market award, in particular, I like to believe that the winners will go on to be “ambassadors” for research in their country and ensure that it is used well there for commercial and social development.

And I was not disappointed—we had more than 40 truly global applications in this first round of the award: from Bangladesh to Uzbekistan; Barbados to Venezuela; Morocco to Kenya. From those who wanted to promote qualitative research in a country where it is not currently highly regarded or help use research to help their country “advance in a more positive and nationally beneficial way,” to those who specifically want to learn to use Big Data, to those who simply want to be a better and more knowledgeable researcher in order to serve their clients well and mentor their team.

Selection of the winners was difficult—fortunately we had a good number of judges with a wide diversity of viewpoints. As in these cases generally, there quickly emerged a consensus as to the top 3 or 4 applicants in each region. Then, via long and intensive debate, the winners emerged. It was often a very close-run thing! We overran our schedule—but it was worth it because the importance to the winners is palpable. 

This award can change their lives by opening up new opportunities and horizons for them. They could, for example, be one of the first in their country to understand a new method or technique and how it can be used there. It’s easy for those of us in the developed world to take for granted the opportunities that we have to learn. There are many countries where research is not appreciated, where it’s very difficult even to network, let alone to get a job—or promotion.   Education provides a key.

Overall this new MRII Emerging Markets Award is a great example of positive outreach to the emerging markets ESOMAR serves, both through its own activities and the Education initiatives that are run by ESOMAR Foundation. I hope that it grows over the next few years and supports many of our fellow researchers in the development of their careers.

For more information about the award, go here.

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