Validity and integrity of data is paramount. I don’t need to spend a lot of time telling you that – you’re here on this blog because you (hopefully) have an understanding and affinity for market research, and treat your role in that research with care and respect. It’s an awesome responsibility.
What I do need to do (because I have to do this for myself often) is remind you reading this that we are lucky to be able to live and work in a place that pushes the boundaries of the use and purpose of data. It’s a great part of our culture, economy and industry. Granted, we aren’t responsible for improving healthcare in the poorest parts of the world, or measuring literacy rates or women’s political rights, but we are contributing to the culture in our own way that values honest, reliable, unbiased data. There are many a despot and dictator out there who should take notice.
From the perspective of a market researcher turned international relations academic – turned professor – turned United Nations non-profit warrior – turned starting my own nonprofit (on the side) – turned market researcher once again, I’ve learned that determining, understanding and analyzing attitudes and experiences of human beings – about anything – is of extreme importance.
During my time at the United Nations this year, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have dominated the discourse. No topic of the hundreds that are discussed, debated and acted upon at the UN can be fully addressed without the SDGs making a prominent appearance. The SDGs are the international community’s promise to our younger generations that 17 key areas will be improved upon in specific and measurable ways. For the UN, a political mechanism that usually deals in generalized and lofty diplomatic speak, developing goals that rely on specific, measurable baselines and outcomes, this shift is groundbreaking. If successful, citizens in every country, even ours, will see their lives improved. If a failure, well, I’ll be writing on old bark from my bunker and that is a topic for another day and venue.
Many in the international community, myself included, are choosing to be optimists and therefore are currently focused on how to achieve all 17 goals. The secret to any success for the SDGs you ask? Not political will, not money, not 40 clones of Bono traveling the world, but data. Good old reliable data. Plain and simple. I have sat in on countless meetings, conferences, roundtables, informal consultations, all dealing with how to set parameters for measuring achievement, establish the baseline, and then report in a way that compares apples to apples and not apples to dictatorships. This is no easy feat, with many countries adopting their own perspective on the problems their societies face to begin with. Again, a topic for another time and venue. This all makes me think a great deal about the breath of fresh air that is methodology and reliability of data even just in the smaller context of PortMA.