MN Chapter Members Complete First Session of Moderator Professional Development Pilot Program, “Moderating For Good”
Valerie Esqueda, email@example.com
On Tuesday, November 12, 2013, members of the QRCA MN Chapter completed a Moderating for Good (“Mod4Good”) pilot project. The purpose of this experimental project was to explore a program that would accomplish two mutually beneficial objectives that, it was hoped, could benefit other QRCA chapters as well.
Objective 1 was to create a process for a non-profit in need to receive qualitative research services that would lead to actionable results for their organization.
Objective 2 was to give professional moderators a rare opportunity to continue to elevate their skills by observing each others’ styles and approaches.
Being that Mod4Good was an experiment, we had no idea what we were in store for or how well it would accomplish our objectives. All we knew was that we wanted to try out the Mod4Goodconcept and see if it could work.
The Mod4Good experiment was conceived in March of 2013. Nine months later, in November, the first Mod4Good research effort came to fruition. Thanks to everyone’s support, patience, cooperation, bravery and enthusiasm, the Mod4Good maiden voyage ended up being a fantastic experience and a highly rewarding learning opportunity.
The recipient of thisMod4Good program experiment was Youth Frontiers, a Minnesota non-profit organization that improves school environments throughout the Midwest by teaching important character-building behaviors to school-age children. Our Mod4Good team of co-chairs included Nancy Brown, Valerie Esqueda, Elaine Gingold, Riva Kupritz, Pam McCarthy, Tracy Peterson, and Jeff Walkowski.
After meeting with Youth Frontiers’ leadership to understand the school program landscape, the Mod4Good team designed a focus group research effort to address some very specific areas that Youth Frontiers needed to understand. They included ways to help schools make a case for the value of a “soft metric” program in a “hard performance metric” environment with budgetary concerns and mandates. After addressing logistics, we moved forward with a focus group consisting of school counselors who would be recruited by Youth Frontiers.
The Mod4Good moderator learning experience was about “Going from Good to Great” and focused on how focus group moderation at its finest does more than just “cover the bases.” We decided we wanted this learning experience to be about the art of moderating. The “artfulness” would be about how moderators use their own skills and intuition to access the deeper layer of honest, authentic and core responses so our clients can make truly well-informed decisions.
The training session was structured as follows:
Moderating Moderators: Moderators teamed up and moderated a 90-minute group, with two moderators per focus group session. Each “owned” half of the session. Our Moderating Moderators were Riva Kupritz and Pam McCarthy. They are both highly talented and gifted moderators who generously allowed us to watch them work their magic
Observing Moderators: These are moderators with an interest in learning other styles, techniques or approaches. They watched the masters at work from the back room.
Post Group Session: Observing Moderators, working from a feedback guide, shared what they learned and provided feedback to the Moderating Moderators on what they saw happening in terms of group dynamics. Both Moderating and Observing Moderators exchanged thoughts on how to get to core insights and identified moments when insights arose organically.
The end result was highly rewarding and informative for all involved. Youth Frontiers was able to make very important strategic decisions based on what they learned. They were also able to identify some exciting new program-development opportunities.
The QRCA chapter member feedback we received from “both sides of the mirror” that night was:
- Moderators left feeling inspired and rewarded. They felt confident about how they might apply what they had learned, to their own professional development.
- We had heard from moderators who wanted to do pro-bono projects as a way of giving back, but these are typically too time-consuming and difficult to execute. By tackling this project as a group, the participating moderators were all able to experience the gratification of completing a successful community service research project.
- Moderators said they had an even deeper mutual respect and appreciation for fellow QRCA members’ special talents and approaches.
In addition, since the conclusion of this experiment we have been seeing and hearing of increased instances of chapter members tapping into each other for expertise and other forms of professional support. One such mention was from Jeff Walkowski to Pam McCarthy on her projective techniques:
“Thanks for demonstrating the use of those toy animals in a focus group. It reminded me how such a simple exercise can be so productive.
I had a feeling that exercise might be helpful in some groups I’m doing this week, and I was right! If I hadn’t watched you moderate in the M4G project for Youth Frontiers, I’m not sure I would have considered it as part of this week’s groups.”
Based on feedback and our learnings from the pilot, we are working on tweaking the Mod4Good program and looking forward to running it again next year. What’s more, we now have a fairly solid process that we are happy to share with other chapters. If you think your chapter might like to explore doing a Mod4Good project of your own, please feel free to contact Valerie Esqueda at firstname.lastname@example.org. She will be glad tell you more about the QRCA MN Chapter experience, process specifics, and materials that will be helpful to you.
The Mod4Good focus group was held at Orman Guidance Research facility. Special thanks go to Rosemary Sundin who graciously offered the use of the facility and their support during the focus group session.
P.S. Toward the end of our focus group, one of the members of the Youth Frontier client group quietly got up and excused herself. She was nine months pregnant but wasn't expecting to give birth for another two weeks. Apparently the baby had other ideas! She realized she was going into labor, called her husband, went straight to the hospital from the facility and gave birth to a beautiful baby girl! In all our years as moderators, not one of us has ever experienced a client going into labor in the back room!
Moderating Moderators extraordinaire Riva Kupritz and Pam McCarthy explored the logical and emotional influences on decision making.
Riva Kupritz |
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