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Which individuals, both in the industry and elsewhere, shone in 2020? We asked people across the market research sector who had left the biggest impression.

In a year dominated by the pandemic, campaigners, vaccine developers and NHS and Key worker heroes featured prominently in peoples thoughts.

Sinead Jefferies, founder, Vela

For me it is Marcus Rashford and his campaigning on ending childhood poverty. His voice and influence have such resonance and I think it is strong conviction and passion that ensured what he is doing has had such an effect, and a really galvanising impact on individuals, businesses and local communities to rise up in response. The humanity of his message and the personal experiences he drew on provoked a phenomenal response that has led to, and will hopefully continue to lead, real change in policy and outcomes.

Crawford Hollingworth, global founder, The Behavioural Architects Marcus Rashford, who I really hope made Boris Johnson realise that leadership is about picking the right battles.

Anna Cliffe, joint managing director, Trinity McQueen I think what Marcus Rashford did for school meals was admirable – taking the government to task on a really important issue and standing up for what is right. Joe Wickes has also surely got to be up there.

Ryan Howard, freelance data science consultant Marcus Rashford and the now Captain Sir Tom Moore would later button the moment perfectly, but I do think back to those first trying weeks. While the rest of us could only dent cookware, our nurses and frontline workers left for work wearing bin bags. There is no looking past this. In times like these, when heroes surround, there isn’t a person of the year.

Sabine Stork, founding partner, Thinktank In the UK, Marcus Rashford. Internationally, Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tureci, the German-Turkish husband and wife team who developed the Pfizer vaccine. What an advertisement for first and second gen immigrants making contributions to society. And for the value of the over-50s.

Caroline Frankum, global chief executive officer, profiles division, Kantar This accolade must go to every single individual who put themselves on the frontline to save the lives of others during Covid-19. My sister is a senior A&E nurse, so I can say first-hand just how amazing the team spirit, compassion, empathy and determination of these frontline workers who have kept the world and its people moving truly are.

Deborah Mattinson, founding partner, BritainThinks Marcus Rashford – and Jacinda Arden – who, coincidentally topped our recent leadership poll. Jacinda spotted this and tweeted out her delight, but we’re still waiting to hear from Marcus…

Jane Rudling, managing director, Walnut Unlimited Jacinda Arden, prime minister of New Zealand. She has shown how leadership does not neglect being a caring human being. How to successfully lead using empathy.

Shazia Ginai, chief executive, Neuro Insight Bit cheesy but I would say its Joe Wicks and his PE classes (and his mammoth 24-hour exercise stint for charity). The vast majority have struggled with mental health in 2020, and physical activity plays a vital role in helping us manage that. Joe’s classes may have seemed like a very simple fun tool for kids to begin with, but as time went on and the effects of isolation kicked in, this initiative became more than a high-intensity training class, for some it became a lifeline.

Joe Staton, strategic innovation officer, GfK Emily Maitlis and her Newsnight introduction to Dominic Cumming’s eye-test travels to Barnard Castle and beyond. The programme began with the presenter simply saying that ‘the country can see’ he had ‘broken the rules’ – the best 57 seconds of TV this year. Tell it how it is.


Nick Baker, chief research officer, Savanta

For me, it’s not a person, it is a specific group. The launch of CORe earlier this year really stands out so its co-founders Melissa Gonsalves, Theo Francis, Natalie Samuel, Graham Idehen, Charlene Adamah, Bob Qureshi, Tatenda Musesengwa, Sia Najumi and Tariq Mirza, but also all the other folk involved as mentors, like Michele Kegnia and many others. Proper quality.

Jake Steadman, vice-president customer insight and user research, Deliveroo Babita Earle from Zappi. She leads the MRS diversity and inclusion council, and she is using that role to be such a powerful force for positive change.

Ben Hogg, managing director Emea and Asia-Pacific, Lucid A personal one and close to home, but it is hands down my colleague Graham Idehen who, along with a group of wonderful individuals, set up the Colour of Research initiative this year. Advocating for the inclusion of minority ethnic professionals in the market research industry, Graham wanted to use his own experience of becoming a leader in our industry to benefit and encourage others. We’re more than a little bit in awe of him at Lucid, and certainly a richer and more diverse team thanks to the work he puts in.

Ray Poynter, chief research officer, Potentiate Rachel Lawes for her new book and her advocacy of semiotics.

Annie Pettit, research methodologist Whitney Dunlap-Fowler. You regularly hear about someone going above and beyond but I can’t even fathom how above and beyond she has gone this last year. She founded Insights in Colour, a community for multicultural market research and insights professionals. She’s put herself out there as a vulnerable person because her mission is so important. I can’t say enough amazing things about her and her unrelenting drive for equity.

Jane Frost, chief executive, MRS So many people have stepped up in this extraordinary year to keep our sector, and indeed the country, ticking. While face-to-face research has been hardest hit by lockdown restrictions, fieldworkers have been critical in delivering the large scale Covid-19 studies that everyone from scientists to policy makers and business owners have depended on. They deserve particular recognition and thanks this year.


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