Turning discomfort into change: a revolutionary role for the insight alchemist

It’s easy to forget that every insight projects is, in some way, a political act. It’s the role of researchers to uncover some version of the ‘truth’, whether that’s testing consumer appetites for a new product, evaluating the quality of a TV show, or investigating the potential impact of a new social policy.


But the political dimension isn’t just visible in the way we help shape important decisions. How we choose to conduct that research is also fundamentally political. And for many in the industry, facing up to the challenge of truly representative research work is the biggest challenge we face. 


And while it’s easy to think that during a time of change and constrained resources, work on equity, diversity and inclusion in research might need to take a back seat, for Insight Alchemy 2023 session chair Sabrina Trinquetel, the opposite is true. “The country looks like it’s going through a mild depression, facing further uncertainty and crisis,” she says. “Now's the time to dig deep, be brave, and evolve. If we accept the status quo, or choose not question the way we’ve always done things, the result will be to dampen already quiet voices.”


The fact is that during times of social and economic stress, it’s often those whose voices and concerns are already marginalised that are hit hardest – by rising prices, gig-economy working practices, cuts to social spending and more. 


The Call for Contributions shows that Sabrina’s is not the only one calling out the need for both our teams and our research to seek out and amplify those voices. And in her session, Sabrina will be joined by Kenny Imafidon, whose work at ClearView Research specialising in social impact evaluation and working with groups who are typically underrepresented in research. Along with an experienced panel, they’ll be making a provocation to the industry: where can we do better? And, importantly, they’ll be offer ways attendees can make changes in their own work – a to-do list for now, next and later.


“The question is how to do this, not why or when,” Sabrina stresses. “Across all areas of research, the difficult questions need to be asked. We have to get comfortable with our discomfort as an industry. We need to unmute all voices – because they hold the key to future solutions and can guide us to ethical growth.”


A rallying call, then, to turn challenging times into much-needed, sustainable change. Join the debate ahead of time, and get your questions and comments in for the panel. Then come along to the session at Insight Alchemy 2023 on 14thMarch – and take away concrete ideas for making a difference, whatever your specialism.

Meet the chair: Sabrina Trinquetel, UK sales director at Measure Protocol and co-chair of MRS Pride

Sabrina T

What aspect in (or of) the research industry right now excites you?

We seem to be on the precipice of real behaviour change within the industry. A lot of what we have talked about for years – data, tech, equality – has been bubbling in the background, but what excites me is the progression from education and discussion into action. 

Core to this is the acknowledgement of interconnectedness we now see across key areas of the industry:

  • ‘Permacrisis’ is a reality. Climate change and other external factors will impact brands. But with two weapons in our arsenal – EDI and technology – our industry is in the best place possible to create ethical growth and guide brands into a new era.
  • Diversity is acknowledged as a must-have. To lead brands into this brave new world, we need strong, informed and diverse voices guiding insights at all levels. Lip-service won’t improve inclusion; strategic decisions need to have it at their core.
  • Data is a change agent. With the continuing development of better technologies, the data we have access to can uplift and drive our understanding. But we need brave curators to test and adapt to it.


Give us one prediction for the start of 2023.

Ethical data, and ethical insights, will be crucial. Huge strides are being made to ensure the voices and rights of participants in our research are being heard and protected. This is only going to become more mainstream, and panels will need to react quickly to realign with these requirements. One example is the focus on accurately describing what a “Nationally Representative” audience actually is. It will no longer be a secondary consideration. The audience is the key ingredient to insight and if this is not fully representative, you’re not serving your client or the consumer. 


What’s the most compelling impact you’ve seen from research during 2022? Why was it so significant?

The work GAMAAN did in Iran, that recently won the President's Medal at the MRS Awards, is particularly impactful. Their work focussed on providing unbiased views on political systems from Iranians, helped to ‘challenge [the] state monopoly of the narrative on Iran’. Their perseverance to continue to complete this work through various difficult barriers, and the impact it had to voice views that supported the protestors through the current situation, only reinforces its sheer importance – and demonstrates the impact of market research in catalysing change. 


In uncertain times, what one piece of advice would you offer younger research professionals?

Through change and uncertainty, the only way to thrive is to adapt. It means constantly having to pivot, change and learn – which can be unnerving or worrying, but it also creates the most amazing opportunities to connect to your values, skills and strengths. It feels like the rules are slightly unwritten at the moment, so it’s a chance to take the lead as well as find inspirational leaders to learn from.