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How much human potential has been lost by Australia due to Covid?

A glimpse of what our speakers are presenting at the 2022 Human Insights Conference!

The opportunity to work across lots of different topics is a big appeal of the market and social research industry.  We have the privileged chance to get deep inside topics and understand and influence them – but we also don’t have to be locked into just one area for the extent of our professional lives.  For those attracted to the social research side of our industry, the topics we get to be involved with are often significant and meaningful issues that have real impact on people and communities.  The satisfaction of working on these topics can be immense.

Most of the work we all do is guided by clients and their needs (as it should be).  Only rarely does the opportunity come along to choose our own work, to set the agenda and explore topics on our own terms.  The COVID pandemic created just that type of opportunity for us, and while it hasn’t always been the most enjoyable topic to be researching, it’s given us the chance to do some of the most interesting and professionally satisfying work of our careers.

On the first weekend we all got sent home back in March 2020, we conceived the idea of the COVID-19 Recovery Tracker, what we now call the CRT.  The basic idea was to aggregate data from across the numerous surveys we conduct using a core set of common questions – allowing us and our clients to better understand and interpret results on the individual surveys.  We also quickly decided to add a low level of continuous data collection for consistency.  We’ve been allowed to continue that investment for more than 2 years now, and have more than 35,000 responses to those core questions across all sources. 

One of the things we purposefully wanted to do with the design of the CRT was make sure the questions stayed relevant over time.  The CRT measures impact, but does so deliberately with questions and scales that made as much sense to ask in five years as they did in the acute phase.  We specifically called it the ‘recovery tracker’ because we wanted to be able to look at Australian society through that more positive long-term lens, not just as a point in time drama.  This has become one of its enduring strengths, because we can still ask exactly the same questions now and into the future. 

When it came to the TRS conference, we knew we wanted to put in a paper based on the CRT.  However, conferences should be about more than just case studies.  The CRT data is regularly published, and we didn’t think that merely talking about the current results or historical trends was really conference-worthy.  We did think there was something interesting methodologically in the sensitivity the online data collection has consistently revealed, but again, it didn’t feel like an exciting conference paper. 

In the end, what piqued our interest for the conference was a combination of our CRT research, some interview comments in a client project, and the frame of ‘human potential’ that we explore with another company we work collaboratively with. 

Because we have editorial control of the CRT, we took the opportunity to put in some new questions for the conference to explore how people perceived the impact of COVID on their future, and to understand if there were people who felt they had permanently lost something due to COVID.  At the same time, in the next iteration of the Human Potential Survey we added similar content to create linkages across the two surveys.

It’s been exciting pulling together a combination of quantitative and qualitative data that might help us answer the question it all led us to: how much human potential has been lost by Australia due to COVID?

As professional researchers who are more than a little prone to nerding-out on data – it’s promising to be a fun few weeks as we get our hands on the April-June CRT data and finally pull all the threads together into what we hope will be a conference-worthy discussion.

Presenters: David Bruce & Paulina Hryniewiecka, ORIMA Research

See program day two: Human Insights Conference

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