Moving swiftly on
Sadly, for AQR, Club 18-30 holidays are no longer an option. Yes, this year marks the big 30. Yet as an organisation it's just hitting its stride.
Reputation to uphold
The AQR of the noughties has been an energetic, all-embracing Association with a reputation for providing value for money courses and events that its members need, upholding professional standards in qualitative research, and enabling its members to network.
It is not impervious to change, as Rosie Campbell's article illustrates. Looking to the future it recognises the need to challenge existing aims while still catering to the requirements of a very diverse membership. The Directory, however, offers an opportunity to look back at what it achieved in the previous year.
So what were the highlights? It wouldn't be fair to pick one above all others, but one event that took off with all the energy of a firecracker was Pecha Kucha. Drawing its name from the Japanese term for the sound of "chit chat" it rests on a presentation format based on a simple idea: 20 images x 20 seconds — a format that makes presentations concise, and keeps things moving at a rapid pace.
Pecha Kucha firecrackers
To date AQR has held three Pecha Kucha nights, organised by Razor Research's Chloë Fowler and Elle Atton, and though they have proved a draw for those new to the industry (and those from outside) — they've increasingly attracted more senior researchers, keen to find out just what they've been missing.
Timing is increasingly an issue for those whose diaries get blocked out months in advance, and it means that AQR has to get the topic and content just right. The stalwarts of the training calendar have always been the Foundation and Moderating Skills Courses.
In 2009, after many successful years in the driving seat, Andrew Beney handed over the reins of the Mod Skills course to Ruth Preston. She saw her challenge as maintaining the standards that Andrew had set, while providing more opportunities to put what's learnt into practice. Initial feedback is that she's succeeding.
The Foundation Course also fulfils an essential role, grounding newcomers to the industry in the essence of qualitative research. It's spearheaded by Lucy Bannister. Last year Geoff Bayley again held live groups on the non-residential version, a good way to keep "newbies" alert, and give them a taste of what life is like in the "real" world.
A new topic was slipped into the training calendar last year: AQR's NLP for Excellence in Moderating Skills course. The day was a hands-on workshop showcasing and demonstrating the practical use of NLP modelling. Held at the London Art House (in all its baroque oddness) and led by Tina Berry and Joanna Chrzanowska, it featured a mix of live and videoed moderating, plus paired and group moderating exercises. Those who attended talked of achieving a new understanding of their strengths and weaknesses in this area, and being able to equip themselves with qualitative tools to "stretch" and adapt their own individual styles.
The summer was pretty packed with events for members. There was, of course, AQR's AGM: an opportunity to snack, network and vote in the annual Committee elections. On the social front, there was the summer BBQ, at the Fence in London's East End. A time to eat, drink, and gossip al fresco.
There was, though, also an event to stimulate the grey matter in the shape of the "Ethnography: Lessons from the Edge" workshop. Spearheaded by Siamack Salari, the day attracted a full house and broke new ground for AQR. It was intended to be innovative and practical and geared to a more advanced audience. Happily, it delivered — even to the point of attracting members who were course "virgins", not to mention a client.
As autumn beckoned, this year's Trends Day beckoned, held at London's Vinopolis. Vince Cable was the star attraction at the event, titled "Sliding Doors: Crisis or Opportunity". It proved a welcome opportunity for people to relax, yet engage with the issues of the day, with speakers focusing on topics ranging from FairTrade and health trends to the challenges of marketing to the elderly and dealing with traumas.
The final event, in December, was this year's Prosper Riley-Smith Research Effectiveness Award, given to Green Light's Amelia Coulam and Andrea Higgins for their work on Center Parcs" "Making Memorable Moments". It was, said the judges, a well told story with the "wow" factor, with the calibre of the entries as a whole demonstrating just how far the competition has come since its launch. The presentation was held at the MRS Awards Dinner.
By the time this Directory hits people's desks, two other events will have occurred in AQR's packed calendar and the countdown will have begun to one more. First, the infamous Not the Christmas Party, set for January at Covent Garden's The Hospital Club. And if last one's was anything to go by, complete with swimming pool and the all-singing, all-pouting Globe Girls, this one will have a lot to live up to.
In February, meanwhile, there will be the Residential Foundation Course, headed up by Joanna Chrzanowska.
Then we'll be working up to "Inspiration in Action", the AQR/QRCA Worldwide Conference on Qualitative Research to be held in Prague in May (www.aqr.qrca.org). The papers are currently being finalised, but they've come from all corners of the globe and add up to (along with a very interactive format) a forum that's not to be missed. For those who've never been to one yet, circle the 19-21 May in your diary and click on to the web site fast.
It will be the first major event in the new decade, but it won't be the last. The only question mark is what will follow and that, to a large extent, rests on AQR's current strategy review deliberations.
This article was first published in InBrief magazine, March 2010
Copyright © Association for Qualitative Research, 2010