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Applied DE&I: Putting Sensitivity to Work
COVID-19 topline

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 QRCA Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) Task

The QRCA DE&I Task Force was formed in 2019 and announced by the Board of Directors in January 2020. This group, comprised of QRCA member volunteers, is charged with developing strategies that foster racial and gender diversity and inclusion within QRCA and the broader market research industry. It 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.

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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