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To a More Sustainable World Through Education

Dilek Ozler thoughts on her experience as a volunteer trainer at a series of workshops run in Sri Lanka on behalf of the ESOMAR Foundation

 

 

Dilek Ozler is Sr. Consumer & Market Insight Manager, People Data Center at Unilever and Executive Coordinator, Paragon Partnerships

One of the most important Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) among the 17 that got adopted by all UN member countries unanimously in September of 2015 is “Quality Education”.  In fact, when the citizens of Developing Countries are polled to express the SDG that most matters to them and their families, “Goal #4: Quality Education” consistently comes up at the top.  It all starts with education!

Paragon Partnerships

In my view, the second most important SDG is “Goal #17: Partnerships for the Goals”.  Nobody can single handedly implement the goals on their own.  It all requires alliances, partnerships and working with others to find the best way to implement the SDGs in the short time frame that we have until it is too late for our world.  That is why, I decided to commit part of my time and brain power to Paragon Partnerships.  Paragon is an organization spearheaded by our CMI EVP Stan Sthanunathan, with the sole purpose of helping UN, Governments, Academia and NGOs with the measurement of progress and implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.  It is a global network of market research companies and their clients coming together to provide pro-bono market research assistance in the shape of consultancy, training, ad-hoc researches, or adding questions to the already running questionnaires.  And I am privileged to be running it globally, trying to bring demand and supply together to help with SDGs.

Training the Market Research Society of Sri Lanka

In late November, I found the opportunity to volunteer at an activity that brings these 2 SDGs together.  In collaboration with ESOMAR Foundation, I co-facilitated a workshop to train the researchers of Market Research Society of Sri Lanka (MRSS), representing Paragon and Unilever.  The main purpose was to provide education to researchers in Sri Lanka that do not have the local resources or experience to deliver training themselves, with the ultimate objective of having more non-profit sector/NGOs come to them with market research requests; and hence help with SDGs.

The whole experience was one to remember and the 20-hour flight from New York City to Colombo was well worth it!  The facility where the training was held was right by the Indian Ocean, with unforgettable sunset views.  And, I was impressed to see the level of patriotism and the loyalty that the Sri Lankans have towards their country.  The 2-day training workshop kicked off with everyone singing the Sri Lankan national anthem, followed by the most memorable moment of oil lamp lighting ceremony.  The Exco of the MRSS, the ESOMAR Foundation representative (Phyllis Macfarlane) and I took turns lighting a tall oil lamp, which was brought to the venue for this purpose.  According to Sri Lankan tradition, it signifies “joining and becoming one”, which was quite appropriate to the overall objective.  We trained, in total, around 100 researchers during the course of the 2 days, and they were all in their best outfits throughout, with the female Exco members in their beautiful and colorful saris.

The hospitality and willingness to help of everyone I met in Sri Lanka was notable.  The delegates were coming from different market research agencies, all with varying degrees of experience.  And the most heartening thing was to see the enthusiasm and the attention they showed throughout the 2 days.

Upskilling researchers

The agenda for the training was split by Qualitative vs. Quantitative research, each through the lens of how to ensure quality market research, telling stories with data, and getting insights that are actionable.  There was also focus on the future of market research, where we touched upon topics like online research, using Social Media and Big Data, as well as using Video for impact on decision making, and Behavioral Economics.  The feedback we got was that their experience was truly inspiring and eye opening. The researchers were enthused to try out new things and embrace the changes that are taking place.  And I feel we have made them more aware of the shifts that are occurring in the global market research space.  And I was pleasantly surprised in the last day of the workshop when the MRSSS Exco showed us the newspaper article on Sri Lanka Daily Financial Times that featured us and the whole event.  That was definitely an assurance that our contributions were truly appreciated.

I also had the chance to meet Sajeevani Hewage, the CMI Manager in Unilever Sri Lanka, who helped us with her contributions in terms of learnings and case studies during this event.

NGOs and charities

I feel so lucky to be part of this experience!  While I helped improve the skill level of market researchers in a developing country, I also contributed in increasing their likelihood to provide help to NGOs, and charities.  These NGOs and charities are all working towards goals that are very much aligned with SDGs, i.e. women`s wellbeing, etc.  And therefore, through this activity I feel I ultimately helped with the SDGs. The additional bonus we got was also the fact that by upskilling these researchers, we were also making sure they provide higher quality market research to Unilever as their client!

All-in-all it was a great experience and I am so grateful that my organization and my leadership management supported me in this journey!

Our thanks go to The Sri Lankan Market Research Association, Himalee Madurasinghe, ESOMAR Representative and CEO Kantar Sri Lanka; Roshani Fernando, COO at Quantum Consumer Solutions for making this new ESOMAR Foundation training session a success!

Training in Sri Lanka – A review by Phyllis Macfarlane

On 21-23 November Phyllis Macfarlane, Treasurer of the ESOMAR Foundation and Global Training Programme Manager at GfK, Dilek Ozler, Sr. Consumer & Market Insight Manager, People Data Center & Unilever Executive Coordinator of the Paragon Partnership and Sajeevani Hewage, Consumer & Market Insight Manager, Unilever Sri Lanka, addressed the Sri Lankan Market Research, Marketing and Sales fraternity with a programme including qualitative and quantitative advanced research training, a special session on the future of market research and a knowledge forum for senior industry leaders.

Part of ESOMAR Foundation’s mission is to provide training in smaller, developing markets that do not have the resources to develop such training for themselves.

So far we have run 2 training workshops in Myanmar, and one in Kenya, and this year we had a request from the Sri Lankan Market Research Association to support them.

Sri Lanka is emerging very dynamically and successfully, it appears, from years of internal conflict within the country, which only ended some 10 years ago. And the recently set up MR Association is full of plans and energy to get their MR industry onto a thoroughly modern footing, and growing!

Change is in the air!

How exciting to be a country at a point where you have just successfully transferred (almost) all your F2F fieldwork to CAPI  – and internet and smartphone penetration are both at 35% and growing.  You have a real opportunity to learn from what has happened elsewhere in the world, and plan for a whole new online and digital future. Perhaps able to leapfrog technology (online data collection going straight to smartphone, for example?) and learning and utilising all the new tech and opportunities that are available.

And from a training point of view – how refreshing to be there at a point where change is in the air. To be able to emphasise the values of traditional MR skills (and help enhance them) and also to demonstrate how these skills translate into the new age digital of MR. In fact, the training couldn’t have been timed better.

What did we do?

Our Hosts were determined to get the most out of us. Beforehand we had discussed various scenarios, and we ended up with a really packed and interesting agenda. We spent one very full day on Quantitative research – focussing on quality and insight and adding value (50 attendees), and a very full half day on Qualitative research – again focussing on qualitative data collection, analysis and insight and how to communicate research to have more impact (38 attendees).

And then a full half day (100 attendees!) on the Future of Research where we covered: quantitative research, qualitative research, passive measurement, Social Media, Big Data, and Behavioural Economics – Phew!

From the feedback I think we did inspire some young researchers to look into these new areas and make them their own.

And then, on the final day, we did a breakfast presentation for clients (c 90 attendees) – who were a very impressive lot, interested mainly in return on research investment (what else?!), and who asked very difficult questions – mainly about the future of communications, social media, Big Data etc. As I mentioned earlier – it’s clear that Sri Lanka is determined to become a very modern business centre – and, based on the people I met there, I think they are very likely to succeed!

Inspiring!

It is always inspiring to meet researchers from other countries – particularly developing ones – and hear about their concerns and aspirations, and  perhaps be able to help and advise them on how to tackle the issues, and also on how to learn new things to achieve their ambitions. It’s also inspiring for me to consider their unique market and how they might develop it. But the workshop was also an opportunity to meet the committed and charismatic Sri Lankan research leaders, and my fellow trainers: Unilever colleagues – Dilek Ozler and Sajeevani Hewage.

Dilek and I have been working very well together on Paragon for nearly 2 years now and we had never actually met – it seems strange to have to travel half way round the world to actually meet – but that’s what happened! And Sajeevani, a young but very experienced Sri Lankan researcher, had great stories about the local industry – which is such an important context in any training programme.

We were very happy to work together to deliver this series of Workshops, which we hope had an effect on everyone who attended.

Training NGOs

Our next task as ESOMAR Foundation is to develop this training programme for NGO researchers. Their language and requirements are very different from our usual commercial clients – so we can’t deliver the same content – it needs to be tailored to their needs.  Do let us know if you have any experience or ideas as to how we should do this, we would love to hear from you.

Our thanks go to The Sri Lankan Market Research Association, Himalee Madurasinghe, ESOMAR Representative and CEO Kantar Sri Lanka; Roshani Fernando, COO at Quantum Consumer Solutions for making this new ESOMAR Foundation training session a success!