Unilever’s plans for a Qualitative Accreditation Scheme has got a lot of people talking, and indeed debating on its merit and place within the industry. Unilever’s intention is to make it compulsory for all agencies that do any sort of qualitative research work with them, to undergo assessment.
It is largely agreed that it’s a positive step to raise standard of qualitative research, exposing those that perhaps aren’t up to scratch, but does Unilever have the right approach?
AQR recently published an article in which 4 people give their opinion…
Geoff Bailey, of Geoff Bailey Research Associates takes to the floor first, and is undoubtedly sceptic. When discussing the merit of accreditation, he states it ‘is not easy to pursue’, due to easy misinterpretation of ‘the craft’. He stresses that each researcher is an individual and will have numerous methods so to obtain results.
But is he right?
When Michael Herbert, of Michael Herbert Associates was approached with the same topic, he directed his response toward the emerging markets, specifically China. He notes that there is a distinct lack of confidence in qualitative research in China due to the lack of quality standards and goes on to stress that methodologies must be grounded in theory so to validate client confidence. He states: “no credible profession or trade commands such high fees without certifying its practitioners in order to offer quality assurance to clients.”
If we expect it of our lawyers, our accountants, why not our researchers?
Louella Miles, offers ‘a view from the outside’, and highlights the little interest in having any accreditation scheme in the past. Miles rightly stresses that it will not be a universal programme, and points out that Unilever will undoubtedly need to put a cap on numbers once roles are filled. Thinking about those ‘who have never worked for Unilever and never intended to?’ or those that have already been in the business for years, she concludes that there is a risk that young researches will never be given a start, and that a barrier of sorts will form.
Is the fact that it attracts so many individuals from so many disciplines what makes it so successful?
Finally the article offers an anonymous response from the client side. They ask the question of AQR’s standing, and whether they aspire to help train and inform, or to be a sort of industry ‘watchdog’. If indeed it is the latter, then will assessments be required purely for membership? Anonymous already notes that differences are emerging across Europe – in the UK there is a broad cross-section who work in the industry and often learn on the job, alternatively continental Europe already favour certain disciplines i.e. Psychology, anthropology. Anonymous does however conclude that it can also be seen as a ‘tremendous opportunity to raise level of qual industry in Europe and worldwide’, championing Unilever for being brave enough to try.
The debate will undoubtedly rage on – and rightly so! In a diverse field, changing markets and an evolving world, it seems ignorant to think that ‘one-size-fits-all’ test will aptly evaluate all methods and tools of the trade. That said, it’s important for the industry that agencies providing poor work are outed. Qualitative research demands innovation and flexibility, and perhaps if the accreditation scheme and testing methods can offer the same, then there is a valid place for it in the future.
Let me leave you with this thought; in an industry that promotes openmindedness, it seems that practitioner diversity should be not just desired, but the absolute minimum.
Do you agree?
What do you make of the Qualitative Accreditation Scheme?
Does it represent a benchmark that the industry desperately needs or a barrier to entry and evolution?
This entry was posted on Friday, 28 Sep 2012 at 12:24 pm and is filed under Customer Experience, Events, Innovation, Insight, Qualitative research.
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