Welcome to the 2008 edition of the Directory. As the new Chair of AQR I’d like to say a formal ‘hello’ to our thriving membership, all of whom are listed in this publication.

Looking back on my first six months, and the AQR’s last year, it seems to have been pretty action packed. We have hosted some wonderful social, educational and networking events — and some which tick all three of those boxes.

Memorable highlight

For many of us, this year’s Trends Day was a memorable highlight. Entitled Pushing the Boundaries, your response indicated it did just that. We were stimulated, provoked and enlightened by seven fantastic speakers, with Oliver James our keynote — and, to the delight of many, we ended the day with Group Discussions, so all attendees became contributors.

Indeed if there’s one thing that characterises a Qual delegation it must be a well-developed instinct to participate, and indeed, opinionate. This is probably why we are, as a community, so good at the ‘partying’ side of events. We started this year in true AQR style with a party in very grand quarters — and we are cooking up an equally wonderful ‘Not the Christmas party’ again, early in 2008.

Modelling ‘Excellence’

On other fronts, we have championed an NLP-based project to model ‘Excellence’ in qualitative work, selecting from a long-list of ‘excellent’ moderators put forward by colleagues, to a final six who were followed, studied and analysed by Tina Berry, Judy Apps and Paul Belcher to provide a fascinating and highly instructive blueprint for understanding what makes for truly great qualitative skills.

We will be injecting ‘Excellence’ into various future educational endeavours — look out for planned events which highlight this initiative. You may discover just what kind of moderator you are, or could become.

We have had a record amount of entries for our Prosper Riley-Smith Effectiveness Awards this year. This was my first time on the judging panel and it saw me truly hard-pressed to eliminate any from the long list in preparation for the shortlist selection day — and others felt similarly.

Worthy winners

There was a breadth of project type, novelty of approach, invention, creativity, and abundant evidence of effectiveness, across the submissions. Caroline Hayter Whitehill (for the second time) and Nitasha Kapoor from Acacia Avenue are worthy winners with their submission based on research for the London Underground.

Next year sees the joint AQR/QRCA conference, this time in Barcelona, in May. This should be motivation enough to attend, but I hear there will be some pretty good papers there, too.

On an international note, we are feeling particularly pleased that we’ve had something of a bumper crop of new members from abroad recently. We’ve notched up another 19 overseas members in the last year — representing 12 new countries (Botswana, Bulgaria, Costa Rica, China, Hong Kong, Libya, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, New Zealand, Trinidad & Tobago and United Arab Emirates).

Life-enhancing connections

This means we now have 119 overseas members from a total of 35 different countries, excluding the UK. Reciprocal connections with similar organisations in other countries are life-enhancing as well as valuable in a networking sense, for all concerned.

So, aspirations for the near future include (apart from the usual, ‘more parties’) the hope and intention of building links with the planning world’s APG, the development of a CPD strand for AQR members, a number of interesting educational events such as a teach-in on qual analysis software, and more broadly, the hope for more involvement, attendance and contributions from as many members as possible. To steal someone else’s advertising tag, ‘What’s your AQR’?

Which leaves me to thank, firstly, our outgoing Chair, Fiona Jack, on her long and exemplary tour of duty (not to mention being a hard act to follow) and secondly, as ever, the team without whom you would never get to experience such a welcoming, efficient and fun AQR: Rose Molloy and Angela Webb (in the ‘home office’), plus Louella Miles, editor of In Brief, In Depth and the articles in this Directory (and who will no doubt, have tidied this up a bit by the time you read it!). Plus Skill Zone Limited, which provides our Web Site Management Services and Nicola Curtis, the bookkeeper.

I’d also like to mention the lovely, bright, personable and amusing Committee plus, of course, all the speakers and course tutors who make AQR the ‘best qualitative organisation in the world’.

Last, but by no means least, I’d like to thank you the members for your involvement and support. I look forward to meeting many more of you over 2008.