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The DE&I Task Force seeks to understand what is and is not working using a human-centered, data-driven approach while encouraging understanding of different groups and social accountability for change among leadership and membership. Visit or email for more information.



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Applied DE&I: Putting Sensitivity to Work

Posted By Marc Engel, Michelle Finzel, Roben Allong and Brittney Hopgood, Wednesday, October 7, 2020
Updated: Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Applied DE&I: Putting Sensitivity to Work

by Marc Engel, Michelle Finzel, Roben Allong and Brittney Hopgood

putting sensitivity to work

Hats off to Shannon Danzy, Susanna Franek and the dedicated members of QRCA’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Task Force for raising awareness over the past several months of the pervasiveness of systemic racism, personal injustices and inequality, through a series of engaging speakers, a DE&I-focused online forum, a Black researchers networking group and more.

As there is so much more to learn for our own education as citizens about the challenges faced by those of different backgrounds and those with different abilities, there is also so much we can incorporate into our practices to become more human-centered research practitioners—and to learn more about, and be more respectful of, our participants.

That’s why we’re excited about our upcoming series: Applied DE&I: Putting Sensitivity to Work designed to help us apply best practices when it comes to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. Inspired by the desire to learn and to teach others how to have difficult conversations, Michelle,  Roben, Brittney, and Marc have had the privilege of working together over the past few months to develop this program.

We are excited to kick off the series with a foundational discussion surrounding something we use all the time but often take for granted: language! (We’re talking about you, Words, Syntax, Text and Subtext.) On October 13th, SF Bay Area Chapter members and communications consultants Drs. Criscillia Benford and Anna Marie Trester will lead us through a discussion of “How Language Means” and how our understanding of its complexities shapes what we say (and don’t say) and what we hear (and don’t hear).

Subsequent sessions will focus on developing more sensitive and precise screeners and more thoughtful and insightful discussion guides. For the fourth session, we are exploring a workshop on applying empathy. We cannot learn these lessons soon enough, not only to be more understanding of people but also to be more thoroughly prepared to adapt to the issues that are shaping our profession and our lives.

This series is designed for moderators, general research practitioners and research adjacent practitioners, including designers and strategists. Expected takeaways are heightened awareness of cultural nuances, conscious listening skills, and interpersonal communication strategies.

Those have attended previous DE&I sessions, were thoroughly engaged and have been clamoring for more. Regardless of whether you attended any of these previous sessions, we urge to join us for this new series on Applied DE&I. Spread the word (and the work!) by asking at least two friends from QRCA to join you so that you experience this useful content together!

About the Authors:

Roben Allong
CEO, Lightbeam Communications and Consultant, Think Global Qualitative

Roben Allong is a market research consultant with over two decades of marketing, consumer trend analyst and moderating experience. An innovative strategist, she specializes in exploratory research. Dubbed by fellow researchers, as “the Oprah” of the focus room, her empathetic curiosity about consumers makes for energetic, revealing focus groups, and insightful analysis. Currently, Roben is Vice President of the QRCA Board of Directors, Co-Chair of the NY Metro Chapter and Board Liaison to the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Task Force.

Marc Engel
Founder, Engel Research Partners

Marc’s passion is to connect and empower. He uses humor and compassion to empathize with others, truly understand them, and link ideas not previously connected, drawing out insights and stimulating new ways of thinking. Whether advising clients or performing comedy, he helps people gain fresh perspectives. Currently, Marc is co-chair of the QRCA’s CA/San Francisco Chapter.

Michelle Finzel
President, Maryland Marketing Services

Michelle Finzel continues to be responsible for overseeing all Full Service research projects, and her goals are to blend theory and practice, emotions with insights, and numbers with words.  She is a RIVA trained focus group moderator and is experienced with qualitative and quantitative research methods, analysis, reporting, and presentation, including focus groups, telephone and online interviews, intercepts, mediation, and in-depth interviews.  Currently, Michelle is co-chair of the QRCA Field SIG.

Brittney Hopgood
Product Designer at CDW

What inspires Brittney most about design is its ability to be interdisciplinary. She is passionate about creating holistic solutions across design disciplines while still remaining grounded in cultural awareness, ethical values, and inclusivity. Brittney is a 2020 QRCA Young Professionals Grant recipient.

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QRCA Works to Know Better and Do Better

Posted By Susanna Franek, Wednesday, October 7, 2020

QRCA Works to Know Better and Do Better

by Susanna Franek


Much has transpired since George Floyd was murdered by police on May 25. Protests across America and beyond are committed to fighting racism and inequality against Blacks. In support of the Black community, the Black Lives Matter movement and other offshoot organizations have evolved into a global, collective cross-cultural movement that’s gaining momentum. And no less, the U.S. is experiencing a resurgence in coronavirus across the nation; a pre-COVID world seems light years ago.

The QRCA Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Task Force

Many of you have asked about QRCA’s stand on what’s happening. Here’s a quick recap: the DE&I (Diversity, Equity & Inclusivity) Task Force was formed at the end of 2019 and, with approval from the board, was formally launched at the January 2020 QRCA Annual Conference in Austin, objectives were outlined, and co-chairs (Shannon Danzy, Principal of danzy consults. and me) put in place.

COVID-19 initially slowed our progress, and then the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis flipped America on its head. In response, on June 3, on behalf of QRCA, President Kelly Heatly released a statement committing to anti-racism and condemning the violence and continued discrimination against Blacks. As an added objective, the Task Force since has been busy discussing, planning, and putting together programming to provide members and the industry with opportunities to learn and engage in community discussions on race, racism against Blacks, and white privilege while building needed cultural sensitivity and empathy skills. We will also soon announce several initiatives that we hope will contribute to bringing Black students into the field as well as advance Blacks already well into their careers.

Series on Race & Racism Against Blacks

Listening Circles
The DE&I Task Force hosted its first Listening Circle on June 8 among members, facilitating breakout rooms that allowed everyone to voice their angst, concerns, frustrations, challenges, fears, and opportunities in a safe space in small groups. It was cathartic and healing; everyone agreed that more such sessions are needed. Take-aways from the Listening Circle and informal conversations with members informed how the QRCA could move forward with training and learning opportunities.

On June 24, a listening circle for Black researchers (called #BlackMRX Chat) was held in recognition that Black researchers could use their own private, safe space to talk, support, and uplift each other. It was such a success that additional sessions are currently being scheduled and an online community will be launched.

Education on Black History
DE&I Task Force: PART I: A Primer on Race and Blackness in America on June 29
This two-part series, presented by history professor Dr. Carmen Harris from the University of South Carolina Upstate, will provide an historical overview of the construction of race in the United States and how it has shaped our understanding of both blackness and non-blackness and their continuous deployments across the chronology of U.S. History.
Part II – Friday, July 24,, 12–1:30 p.m. EDT (UTC-4)

Photo by Zoe VandeWater on UnsplashRecognizing Privilege
DE&I Task Force: The Problem with Privilege on Monday, July 13, 12–1:30 p.m. EDT (UTC-4)
Rochelle Newman-Carrasco will lead a lecture/discussion on privilege that is designed to be relevant to individuals from all cultural backgrounds, but especially to a white audience. She will apply her career experience in the advertising industry, and how she served as a bridge between corporate America and consumers of color. She will illuminate the role of the white ally and how self and societal knowledge can lead to perspective shifting—an essential element in cultural and racial conversations. 

DE&I Task Force: Listening Circle: White Privilege, Monday, July 13, 1:45–3 p.m. EDT (UTC-4)
Immediately following the discussion on privilege by Rochelle, we will join other QRCA members to continue the conversation to discuss what we learned and the impact of privilege on our personal and professional lives. The Listening Circles will be a safe space for people to explore their thoughts and feelings. In a smaller group setting, people are nudged to step out of their comfort zones in turns while others listen. It’s a “no judgment” zone.

…And More to Come
Stay tuned for sessions on marketing to and conducting market research with Blacks with the award-winning speaker, Black American expert, and author Pepper Miller of The Hunter-Miller Group as well as a training session on important qualitative research skills such as empathy.

We’re Here for You

The task force is here to support our members—all of our members. We encourage engagement from everyone, domestic and international. The welcome mat is out for volunteers to come join us! This is not a time to take a back seat. We need to brave some tough conversations. It’s new terrain and it’ll be messy and raw, but necessary. Let’s be patient with each other!

Here’s a comprehensive list of resources so we can start self-educating. If we all commit to reading an article a day, watching a documentary a week, reading a book a month to inform ourselves on the historical backdrop of racism in America, that’s a great start to not only changing the narrative, but creating a saner, more just world. In the meantime, Maya Angelou’s words couldn’t be more appropriate to our purpose:

I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”

About the Authors:

Susanna Franek
Cultural Anthropologist, Ethnologix
Co-Chair, Diversity, Equality & Inclusivity Task Force,
Chair of Multicultural SIG

BIO: A bilingual cultural anthropologist, Susanna’s work is grounded in social justice qualitative research methods. Studies include among Latinx, South Asian, Middle Eastern, youth and general market communities within the U.S. and internationally. Susanna is passionate about changing the narrative on race, gender, and immigration to help birth a new inclusion of the underdog.

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash (BLM signs)
Photo by Zoe VandeWater on Unsplash ("I understand that I will never understand")

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