Spotlight on: Young Researcher of the Year finalist, Bessie Pike.

Posted by Bessie Pike on the 15th October, 2020
For me, it’s not about the accolades of winning the MRS Young Researcher of the Year award, it’s about what I can do with this platform. The opportunity to be an ambassador for the next generation of young researchers is both humbling and invaluable.

Walnut Unlimited are immensely proud to be nominated in three categories at this year’s MRS Awards. Two of those categories are Young Researcher of the Year – where Nick Saxby (SRE) and Bessie Pike (SRE) are nominated alongside some of the best young talent the market research industry has to offer. We put the spotlight on our Young Researcher of the Year candidates and asked them what it means to be nominated. First, let’s hear from Bessie Pike.

1. What does it mean to be nominated in this category?

I feel extremely honoured to be nominated and have my achievements recognised by the Market Research Society. For me, it’s not about the accolades of winning the MRS Young Researcher of the Year award, it’s about what I can do with this platform. The opportunity to be an ambassador for the next generation of young researchers is both humbling and invaluable. I’ve been inspired by the achievements of previous nominees and winners and am delighted to be named amongst such greats. It is really important to have role models that show young researchers they too can have an impact within the research world – however big or small! After all, it’s the next generation of young researchers that will shape the future of research.

2. What is your proudest achievement in your research career so far?

Being shortlisted for Young Researcher of the Year has to be topping it right now! Before that, my proudest achievement has to be attending the parliamentary launch for research I led for MS Society in 2018. The research was part of MS Society’s campaign #ScrapPIP20m which lobbied the government to change the eligibility criteria of the new disability benefit. The campaign received support from 36,000 signatures, and I even got to mingle with some famous political faces while there. Following the success and impact of the research, I won two MRS awards in 2018; Best Public Policy and Social Research, and the MRS’ most prestigious Grand Prix Award. Without a doubt there was a lot to celebrate that evening!

In August this year, I was shortlisted as a finalist for ‘ESOMAR Yes Award’ for young researchers. The award involved creating a 60 second video pitch to be presented at ESOMAR’s Global Insights Festival 2020 alongside finalists from countries including, Malaysia, Singapore, and the US. I put my newfound obsession for TikTok (thank you lockdown) to good use and recorded my pitch in the form a TikTok. The pitch focused on the future of participatory research and how we can ensure research design is inclusive, empowering and reflects participants’ lived experiences. It was such a fun experience to be a part of and a huge privilege to be acknowledged globally within the research industry.

3. What differentiates you as a nominee for the category of Young Researcher of the Year?

From early on in my research career I have not been afraid to push the boundaries of traditional research and explore a different dimension of doing market research altogether. As a young researcher, I have found at times I was conducting research about issues which affected groups of people I’d personally had no experience with. And despite this, I was still deciding how these issues and groups of people should be researched. To me (and maybe to you) this didn’t make sense. I thought, ‘There must be better way we can do this?’. That is when I began exploring the power of participatory approaches. I was inspired to rethink my role as a researcher and create a research process which included participants and gave them an opportunity to decide how they were researched. Ultimately ensuring participants’ voices are heard, instead of researchers speaking on their behalf.

From this point onwards, I have made it my mission for research to become a more empowering and equal place for all participants. Despite participatory research being a new concept to many within market research, I’ve always shared my knowledge with others. Within Walnut Unlimited, I have worked towards establishing this approach as a key research tool, and inspiring and sharing my vision with other young researchers at conferences and universities.

4. What does the future of research look like, in your opinion?

The future of research will blend approaches and reflect the increasingly active role consumers, customers and users have in society. In recent years, we have seen people demanding more from the brands, organisations, and companies that they interact with. Gone is the age of passive consumers. Instead, we see active consumers who are not afraid to use their voice. Grassroot initiatives like #blacklivesmatter and #blackouttuesday have held corporations accountable for their diversity and inclusion practises highlighting that this is more than a passing social media trend.

As researchers, we need to replicate the power shift we are witnessing in society. For me, the future of research will continue to be more than a one-way transactional relationship between researchers and participants. It will be a more collaborative, inclusive approach, grounded in participatory principles. A future which keeps participants at the heart of the research.

More about Bessie Pike…
Bessie is a strong and valued member of our extremely talented qualitative research team at Walnut. Bessie’s MSc in Social Research Methods sparked a passion for participatory techniques early on in her career, which she uses alongside more traditional qualitative techniques. As demonstrated above, Bessie’s passion in research is giving audiences a true voice, rather than speaking on their behalf. Bessie’s work so far has spanned a huge range of clients including Tesco, Heineken, the MS Society, IGD, DAZN and Vonage. Bessie and the team at Walnut Unlimited were also recent winners of the MRS Research proposal competition Understanding Homelessness, successfully pitching a participatory approach to stakeholders from the MRS, Shelter, Crisis and Centre for Homelessness Impact.

Meet the Author: Bessie Pike
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