There is progress, says Michael Herbert, in developing the qualifications needed for the industry's professionalisation programme, but funding is a big issue.
Qualitative researchers are lucky. On the industry-wide steering group, which is attempting to professionalise QR, there are talented, dedicated people who are willing to give freely of their time such as Mia Lorenz of the Research Academy, Joanna Chrzanowska of Qualitative Mind and Debrah Harding, managing director of the MRS. Their combined efforts over the last few months have provided a solid platform from which to develop a set of professional qualifications for quallies and a model business plan which could form the basis of a global roll-out.
The group met in London in October to review both these proposals and to develop a strategy for implementation.
The professionalisation framework
The comprehensive curriculum and assessment framework, developed by Joanna and Mia, provides four different qualification levels for quallies. They are Bronze for new entrants to the profession, Silver for early career researchers with around three years experience, plus a Silver Moderator-Only (available only for moderators in specific markets as part of the frameworks global remit) and Gold for experienced researchers with approximately seven years in the profession.
Overcoming barriers to implementation
Debrah presented her business plan for implementing it globally. A critical component of turning the professionalisation ideal into reality is how much it will cost to develop and how the revenue can be raised to fund the programme. She explained that fully developing the four qualifications from scratch would cost in excess of £400k. This captured the full attention of the steering group.
In the qualitative quest to become fully professionalised, it was unanimously agreed the profession should fund its own qualifications. If the qualitative profession wants to be taken seriously, in the way that other professions such as doctors and accountants are, then like these professions, clients could not be expected to be part of this funding.
The steering group wants to start implementation of the professionalisation programme yet the £400k looks at this stage to represent an insurmountable hurdle.
In an attempt to overcome this, we have set up a subcommittee to find a way forward made up of myself, as chair of the steering group, Dawn Farren, Global CMI director at Unilever and Rebecca Wynberg of TNS Global Qualitative, who run and have designed the Unilever Accreditation programme. Debrah and Finn Raben, director general of ESOMAR, are also bringing their weight of knowledge and depth of experience to the challenge of implementation.
So watch this space as we search for light at the end of the tunnel.
This article was first published in InBrief magazine, December 2015
Copyright © Association for Qualitative Research, 2015