From The President – Spring 2022

QRCA President Roben Allong speaks to how qualitative researchers have remained the tuning fork for human connection—helping brands continue to meet consumers where they are.

The Power of Connection  

By Roben Allong, Lightbeam Communications (M/WBE), New York, New York, robena@lightbeamnyc.com 

Hello members, 

By the time you read this… we’ll be heading toward spring and into the swing of 2022. Springtime is often perceived as a sense of renewal and new beginnings. Nature comes out of its winter slumber, flowers begin blooming, and animals come out of their hibernation. So too are we coming out of the pandemic funk… or, at the very least, learning to live with it as part of twenty-first century human life. One of the more interesting “under the radar” movements I have observed alongside all the changes we are experiencing is the reinvention and rejuvenation of connecting with others—from how to why to when to what we can do when we connect, everything has been completely disrupted because of the pandemic. 

For most of the past two years, in-person contact for humanity at large was reduced to mask-covered mini-moments, if at all. Connections were broken. We have lost peers and industry titans such as Naomi Henderson, a champion of qualitative research and the understanding of human behavior. Some connections disappeared completely as we squirrelled away in our homes, our pods, the places of safety and isolation against the dreaded COVID-19 virus. Forced to adapt to our new reality, we speak through face masks, use virtual portals like Zoom, and stay socially distanced. Every one of us has been affected in ways we could never have imagined. I’d like to think the research industry, and especially quallies, using every means at our disposal, have embraced new ways to keep human connection thriving as mindsets and behaviors adapt to the new “no-contact” normal. 

It is well-known that staying connected is integral to the health of humanity, to us. With accelerated acceptance of conferencing technology such as Zoom, Blue Jeans, WebEx, Skype, and others, qualitative researchers have remained the tuning fork for human connection—helping brands continue to meet consumers where they are. As qualitative methodologies and approaches are adapted to maintain and sustain connection in this new emergent world, we must continue to ask ourselves, “How do we as QRCA remain relevant?” What are the best and appropriate tools for researchers to facilitate effective and efficient connection? Whether it is building different kinds of rapport and/or communities; designing studies, questions, and stimulating conversations that engage in different ways; understanding and interpreting new cultural signs, symbols, and lexica across generations—how do we continue to stay connected to each other and to the essence of what it means to be human? 

As quallies, I believe we carry the torch for connection through listening, probing, interpreting, and finding meaning in the cacophony that is human sight, sound, and experience. Because of, and despite the in-person connection deprivation brought on by the pandemic, we are on a quest—now more than ever—to reach out and connect to others, personally and/or professionally. One size does not fit all and, through ongoing qualitative research, we continue to help companies, brands, and ourselves elevate understanding of the diversity of human experiences. Voices, especially those that had been marginalized, are being heard, some for the first time as we find new ways to re-envision connection. Let us continue to lead the charge and elevate national empathy as more light is cast on disparities brought on by systemic racism and inequality. With every qualitative research study to which we contribute, we keep respondents, brands, companies, and ourselves connected. The great humanitarian, activist, anti-Apartheid hero, and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said, “My humanity is bound up in yours… for we can only be human together.” As we, QRCA, continue to forge forward fearlessly—taking a leading role in elevating the understanding of humanity above all—as the organization has always done, we strive to stay true to that by which we stand: connecting, educating, and advancing. 

Best regards,
Roben Allong