Friendly feel to US forum
Finding myself living in Los Angeles, a mere 150 miles from San Diego, I decided that the QRCA conference in October would be the ideal first step back into work following four months of relocation hell.
The QRCA is very different from the AQR primarily, I think, because it consists entirely of independent qualitative researchers. Some 300 of them fly in each year to a different American city for the conference, with a sizeable contingent from abroad.
The QRCA goes out of its way to make delegates feel at home, with newcomers allocated Guardian Angels to look after them, and meals arranged so that you can choose your food and topic of conversation before sitting down, thus assured that you won't feel out of place. Evenings are run in the same way.
In fact I knew lots of people, as there was a considerable English showing. One of the highlights for me was Peter Lovett dancing the conga on the evening cruise round San Diego harbour. Another was a panel session, where Chris Payne was asked about his preferences for clothes. If you see Chris, do ask to see his "trousers that are neat but 'convert' into shorts"!
Moving on to the sessions, topics relating to personal and business growth and to techniques were the crowd pullers. This differs, I feel, from the UK where the more esoteric subjects would score. My paper on moving research into new arenas and unashamedly promoting the new AQR book was well attended but could not compete with concurrent papers on Projective techniques, NLP and How to grow your business. The emphasis at the QRCA is highly practical and hands on.
Related to this, the delegates are incredibly, almost unbelievably happy to share their knowledge and ideas with one another. They are neither competitive nor secretive.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time in San Diego. OK, partly as it gave me time away on my own but also as the atmosphere is really invigorating. There is a truly American and uplifting flavour to the QRCA, it is welcoming and it is fun. I met great people and made good new contacts. Next time you have some spare air miles, get over there and see the world from the other side.
This article was first published in InBrief magazine, January 2001
Copyright © Association for Qualitative Research, 2001