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The Qually Award - Call for Entries 2021

Key Dates:

May 28, 2020 – Open for submissions
June 8, 2020Q&A Live Session
August 21, 2020 – All submissions due
September 2020– Finalists announced
February 2021 – Final Presentations at QRCA Annual Conference

Q: The RFP states only digital methods are accepted in proposals, could you elaborate more on what prompted this change?
A: The Qually Award gives our community a valuable education opportunity who often incorporate the approaches participants present into their own consulting practice. Given the challenges the current pandemic has posed to researchers worldwide, we’d like to inspire relevant methodologies that our fellow Quallies can adopt and still comply with social distancing restrictions.

Q: Could you share more about who the client is for this year’s RFP?
A: This is a collaboration effort; a world-reporting organization + an investment firm. The two of them have a shared, vested interest in the mental health industry; and seek more data to help them solve the problem. It’s complex, right? Trying to navigate healthcare obstacles, patient complexities, business units, etc has motivated them to want to understand the users (re: patients) who would ultimately need the mental health offering that gets developed. Think of it like a concepting project; you don’t need to know the final outcome, but how would you apply qualitative research to ideate best-chance solutions? Reminder that all Qually Award clients are hypothetical, and the proposal submission is not considered a bid.

Q: Mental health is a really broad spectrum of patients. Will you re-explain the target audience again?
A: Completely agree! Without intention of discriminating against patient groups; for the purposes of this assignment we ask that researchers consider mental health patients who do not currently need institutional/hospital intervention for their care. The clients we’ve identified are interested in a wide/broad patient engagement versus a smaller pool of more advanced patient needs. While our RFP offers some guidance into the target audience definition, we encourage you to further define the patient audience in your proposal, providing rationale for any revisions in your audience definition and how it applies to your proposed methodology.

Q: Do I need to worry about budgets or timelines for this hypothetical RFP?
A: No. We deliberately ask for all submissions to NOT include (read: waste time) on developing timelines or budgets for these projects. (1) They are not REAL projects, so we don’t want to spin your wheels or our valuable partnerships in the industry. (2) We provide basic assumptions in the RFP; essentially imagine a several month project with a healthy amount of money to spend (read: not a shoestring budget). As long as your ideas are reasonable and doable within today’s’re probably in good shape.

2021 Qually Award Committee Members: 

Pam Goldfarb Liss

Pam Goldfarb Liss, QRCA Board Liaison

Kayte Hamilton

Kayte Hamilton, Chair

Breyda Ortega

Breyda Ortega, Vice-Chair

Elizabeth McKinley

Elizabeth McKinley, 2019 Rising Star Award & 2015 Young Professional Grant Winner

Marlena Mattei

Marlena Mattei, 2019 Qually Award Finalist & 2018 Young Professional Grant Winner

Jillian Domin

Jillian Domin, 2020 Qually Award Winner

Leah Lowe

Leah Lowe, 2020 Qually Award Winner

Andre Sanabia

Andre Sanabia, 2020 Young Professional Grant Winner

Thank you to our 2021 Qually Award Sponsor:


Qually Award 2021


Context & Background

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic turned our world upside down, affecting both our personal and professional lives. Though social distancing became our most powerful tool to keep the virus from spreading, it also forced many companies to adapt and implement new ways of conducting business in this new reality. Could this be our “new normal”?

Market research consultants all across the globe were no exception to these pivots. Our industry colleagues, suppliers, and clients all had to adapt to a new landscape; adopting alternative methodologies and acquiring new skill sets, all while balancing modified project schedules.

We know it has been a challenge and we have witnessed an incredible amount of teamwork and training opportunities to help see us through. In addition, the 2021 QRCA Annual Conference theme is: Diversify. Discover. Design the Vision. The idea is to be seen as a call for sharing new points of view, unique solutions and approaches for solving today’s challenges and seizing opportunities that make qualitative research more relevant and future-focused than ever.

There is no doubt COVID-19 has impacted traditional ways of conducting qualitative research, but perhaps even more meaningful is how the virus has impacted our mental health.

These unprecedented times have arguably created new levels of unrest, with people turning to Google for help on how to manage anxiety and depression.

Not only are people worrying about contracting the virus, but many are also struggling with altered daily routines and uncertainty about the future, while others have the added stress of having lost their job. Additionally, social distancing may have exacerbated mental health issues by making us feel more lonely than ever, hindering our ability to practice healthy coping mechanisms, and limiting access to our support systems. The idea of developing mental health solutions is not new. In recent years there has been a rise in social conversations to help alleviate the stigma. What IS new, in our new normal, is that it’s harder for people to rely on traditional in-person therapy solutions.

“The impact of the pandemic on people's mental health is already extremely concerning. Social isolation, fear of contagion, and loss of family members is compounded by the distress caused by loss of income and often employment.”

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus // WHO Director General

In this year’s Qually Award season, we would like to focus your creative thinking on advising a team of investors who wish to find a solution as we collectively heal from the effects of the virus on mental health. We will pretend that they have been approached to help develop new solutions for mental health treatment, though are completely new to this space and healthcare in general. (Quick note: reminder that all RFP ideas are hypothetical in nature, there is not a live client commissioning this research request.)

In addition to helping the investor team understand the current landscape, as a research consultant, you will also have to adapt your services in response to restrictions imposed during a pandemic; think digital-only or alternative methods that comply with standard social distancing protocols. Keep this in mind regardless of the timing of your project or approach as the future is still very much unforeseeable.

The Qually Award not only offers an opportunity to showcase creative business solutions, it also brings an educational value to conference attendees who love learning new skills. What is something new you bring to the table to the practice of qualitative research that would benefit our community? Be sure to keep this thought in mind during your proposal development.


A team of investors has been approached by a worldwide health organization (think along the lines of an entity like WHO) to financially support the development of a new mental health service offering. The investors rarely engage in marketing research and are open to creative solutions given our current health environment. Treat them as new-to-research and new-to-mental-health in your submission. They need to ensure their investment dollars will provide a decent ROI and want to add something new to the treatment solutions currently available. They are looking for a breakthrough way to engage with mental health “patients” for greater societal good and understand there are stigmas and barriers to this topic.

Business Objective

Allocate investment capital towards a new-to-market mental health treatment solution. (This could be for any country.)

Key Research Questions

  • How has the pandemic impacted patients’ mental health?
  • What may be the long-term effects of the coronavirus to mental health to plan for?
  • How and why are current treatment solutions failing to meet patient needs?
  • How have current treatment solutions pivoted when in-person sessions are not an option?
  • What barriers to treatment currently exist and how can we overcome these with this new business?


This description is focused on patients who may not need more advanced forms of therapy or institutional involvement.

Mental Health spans a wide range of diagnoses so please consider at least one of the following patient types in your proposal:

  1. Diagnosed patients who may/may not be currently receiving treatment
  2. Undiagnosed patients who may/may not be currently experiencing symptoms in response to the pandemic AND are not engaging in any therapy solutions

List of potential mental health disorders (not exhaustive):

  • Anxiety (including generalized anxiety, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and phobias)
  • Situational or chronic depression and other mood disorders
  • Acute or chronic insomnia
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Eating disorders and disordered eating
  • Alcohol and/or other drug use disorders


In the spirit of adapting your practice during a pandemic and to encourage new creative thinking, we have set forth some new parameters for your consideration on this proposal:

  • Research must not be conducted using a “traditional” in-person focus group(s).
  • Please consider digital-only and/or alternative in-person methodologies that take into account social distancing protocols imposed during a pandemic such as limiting public gatherings to no more than 5 people, keeping a 6-feet physical distance from each other, and using protective wear (face masks, gloves, etc).

* We will be hosting a live video Q&A session on June 8th, 4:00–5:00pm Central Time to answer your questions in more detail.

All proposals will be evaluated using an objective grading system by the 2021 Qually Award Committee. Current metrics may include, yet are not limited to:

  1. Understanding of the problem surrounding access to Mental Health services and your chosen client’s background for this project need
  2. Relevant solutions to the topic presented. Was your overall approach logical?
  3. Clear & articulate writing, avoid typos!
  4. Creative problem solving and unique executions: remember we are not looking for traditional methodologies
  5. Research expertise. Have you provided robust support for your research solution? Why would this/these method(s) work over another approach?

We’ve heard the feedback! This year, during the QRCA Annual Conference Finalists Presentations, we won’t be asking our peers to wear the hat of the “client” when it comes to voting. Instead, we’ve found two areas that have been common in evaluations:

  1. How inspiring the proposal/presentation is; are members left with something new to consider?
  2. The immediate ability for our members to replicate similar themes in their own practice.

NOTE: Details about these peer-voting metrics will be available prior to the Annual Conference along with additional support/guidance on how to vote. At this time we simply want to inform those interested in submitting of the voting shifts.

More new news! We’ve formally adjusted the finalist prize pool. This year, the winner will be awarded $1,000 (that’s normal), PLUS 2nd place will earn $500 and 3rd place $250. There is no longer an “all or nothing” top prize. Thank you, QRCA!

NOTE: In the event of a finalist pair, prize money will be equally distributed between team members.

The Winner:

Will be chosen from a peer-based vote after the live presentations at the Annual Conference
Will take home $1000 cash, Qually Award Trophy, a spot in the Qually Hall of Fame
Will be invited to join the Qually Committee for the 2022 season
Will NOT be allowed to submit a proposal response for the 2022 season

  • Proposals are due by Midnight on August 21, 2020 on the QRCA Qually Page.
  • Each should be no more than 10 pages (including a title page).
  • Be sure to identify a distinctively “you” project name for your approach with your submission (included in your file name and anywhere else on your proposal you feel is necessary).
  • Do not include a budget/cost analysis, nor a project timeline. If a time frame is needed to ground your methodology, consider 6-months or less.
  • Do not include any personal information in your proposal, it will be reviewed anonymously. Our organization managing partner, Ewald, will proof all submissions to ensure there is no PII before the committee reviews the proposals.
  • Focus on research design, we’re looking for IDEAS on how you would tackle this problem, not business pitches.
  • We will identify up to three finalists to present at the 2021 QRCA Annual Conference.
  • Each will be given one free conference admission (if there is a team of two, this is the equivalent to a 50% discount for each presenter).
  • The finalists are chosen by members of the Qually Committee and their extended review members.
  • Proposals must focus on qualitative methods only. We know there is a lot of secondary and quantitative data available for this problem – feel free to mention how your QUAL research is anchored by other research means, yet your proposal needs to be anchored in qualitative executions among all else.
  • All participants must be in good standing with QRCA. If a non-member submits and is chosen as a finalist, they must become a member prior to the 2021 Annual Conference, or will forfeit their finalist position and the next-placed submission will be granted a spot in the final group.
  • No one on the current Qually Award Committee (or those who participated in the planning process) is eligible to submit.
  • Winner(s) from the previous award (2020) are not eligible to compete. This includes other members of the past winner’s firm. (They will qualify again in the 2022 circuit.)
  • Proposals can be submitted individually or as a team. Only those team members identified are allowed to contribute to the research design and presentation of the proposal. Outside assistance will disqualify the submission.
  • If desired: you may submit a proposal as an individual and a separate submission with a teammate; it is highly encouraged that these proposals be unique in their approach and methodologies presented.
  • Finalists agree to allow QRCA to post their proposal on the QRCA website for members to access prior to their live presentations.
  • All finalists must be available to attend & present at the 2021 Annual Conference. If a finalist is unable to make it, we must know at least 60 days in advance and their spot may be replaced pending committee and QRCA review. The committee will do everything possible to make alternate scenarios work to the benefit of the finalist, especially given the unforeseen future health environment landscape. Any conference pivots will be considered with the Conference Chairs, QRCA Board, and Ewald to ensure compliance and safety for our members.

For more information on the Qually Award, please visit the QRCA webpage dedicated to the award process.

Qually Award CFP Form

I have read the Privacy Policy and grant consent to use my data.
By submitting to the Qually Award I acknowledge that I am aware the top three finalists will be presenting at the 2021 Annual Conference in San Diego, CA (February 3-5, 2021). I will make every effort to attend the conference and if not, I understand I may have forfeit my finalist position. I will be in regular communication with the Qually Award Chair about my availability should it change. 

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