ESOMAR Foundation’s work with Paragon

Jordan Robinson, Director for the Development Practice, Kantar Public, presents the 2018 study results at an event during the UN High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in New York.

One of the most important relationships we have as ESOMAR Foundation is with Paragon, another Market Research Industry initiative, which is trying to make the world a better place. EF is a member of Paragon – you can find the list of members on the Paragon website:


What exactly is Paragon?

Paragon Partnerships was launched in 2016, by Stan Sthanunathan of Unilever, in response to the UN’s 17th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) – the call for private sector partnerships to help the UN achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) by 2030.

It was realised very early that the sustainable development goals cannot be achieved by any single organisation – even the UN! A successful sustainable development agenda requires partnerships between governments, the private sector and civil society. And these inclusive partnerships, built upon principles and values, a shared vision, and shared goals that place people and the planet at the centre, are needed at the global, regional, national and local level.

Hence, Paragon is the initiative of the global market and social research industry sector, aimed at enabling Governments, Academics, the UN and NGOs around the world, which are working to tackle the 17-point plan of the UN Global Goals – end poverty, combat climate change, and fight injustice and inequality around the world – to connect with market, opinion and social research companies, which are committed to helping by providing access to quality data and insights on the issues that the world is facing.

Measuring Progress with the UN SDG’s

One of the really core objectives of Paragon is to help measure progress with the UN goals to not only keep governments and policy makers accountable, but also gauge how much we are getting closer to the targets so that new policy adjustments can be made – so, in 2017, an 11-country study was conducted online for the UN SDG Action Campaign, sponsored by the Paragon Members: Kantar Public and Lightspeed.

As a result, a benchmark was successfully established for these countries to improve on as they continue their journey to meet the SDGs by 2030.

In 2018 the UN SDG Action Campaign requested further support to measure progress with the 2018 priority SDG’s in targeted emerging markets where accurate measurement is only possible using representative random probability methodologies. So, Paragon, the Global Research Business Network (GRBN), and ESOMAR Foundation called for volunteer agencies in the selected countries to sponsor a survey for the UN. The survey was conducted in 3 countries Lebanon, Sri Lanka and Romania. Kantar Operations India analysed the data, and the presentation of the data was delivered by Kantar Public at UN HLPF (High Level Political forum) Meeting on July 13th, 2018.

Jordan Robinson, Director for the Development Practice, Kantar Public, presents the 2018 study results at an event during the UN High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in New York.

Subsequently the 4 agencies have been connected with local UN representatives and promoted and recognized by the UN SDG Action Campaign on their website and in social media etc. UN SDG Action Campaign has also made the data publicly available for any government organization and/or NGO to use.

We are currently talking to UNSDG Action Group about the measurement programme for 2019, and helping to train UN volunteers in Interviewing skills. The measurement work is currently short-listed for the UK Market Research Society’s President’s medal – which is great – please do keep your fingers crossed for us.

Measuring World Happiness!!

The other key initiative that we are involved in at this very moment is Understanding World Happiness – a project for the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN): This is about helping to find out the determinants of happiness in people`s lives through market research.

We have been contacted by Prof. Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University for a project to feed into his efforts around the “World Happiness Report”, and “Global Happiness Policy Report”, as published annually, with contributions from SDSN, which is headed by Prof. Sachs, and with input from several scholars, and research institutes and universities around the world.

At the moment they are getting ready for the next publication of these reports(2020), and they would like to have the contributions of Global Market Research Industry, as represented by Paragon.

We thought the best way to approach this would be through, first, making a desk research/rewind of all existing MR material on this topic, and we have already received lots of feedback from the Paragon partners about what already exists in this space.  These will help us in wrapping our heads around what is available and also will help in the shaping of the new study.

And then the second thing is finding a research vehicle to run the research on (it will be US based initially). We think we have identified a good random probability survey which is run by a Paragon Agency partner, but we will probably want to supplement it with some NLP, or qual, etc.  And then we will put together a Paragon team to author the research results and the article/chapter in the next World Happiness Report.

This will be quite a high-profile work that finds its way all around the SDG community globally.  Jeffrey Sachs is one of the people with the most authority in this field.  He is one of the world’s most renowned economists, as well as serving as Special Advisor to current and past UN Secretary Generals and he was the architect of the Millennial Goals. So it is a really exciting opportunity for us.

Prof. Jeffrey Sachs

Those are our 2 key initiatives of the moment – we are also looking at helping NGO’s with understanding social listening and data visualization, because they know that they need to keep up with the latest techniques and methodologies – but need to understand how it can work for them. A bit like the series of webinars we have run as ESOMAR Foundation to help NGO’s understand how qualitative research can help them achieve their objectives more effectively and sustainably.

About the Author:

Phyllis Macfarlane, Member of the Board and Treasurer, ESOMAR Foundation