The worldwide conference on qualitative research: May 2018, Valencia

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Being stereotypically English, I dislike hyperbole.

I bristle when I am told something is awesome. I have a deep suspicion of razzmatazz.

Despite this I can say without hesitation last week’s #WWQual conference was the best research event I have ever been to. I have never got more value from a conference.

  • It was collegiate. The atmosphere was encouraging, open. There was no competition or one-upmanship. As joint chair Peter Totman said: “a rising tide lifts all boats”. The focus was on training and learning, community and fun.

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  • It was highbrow. Practitioners shared analysis frameworks and techniques in a shared quest to understand people more fully.
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  • It was inspiring. New possibilities fizz and bang in my head. I have several new methodologies prepared and ready to go. We had two packed days but the content was never repetitive. Reflecting on all the presentations & discussion is going to keep me busy for weeks (posts to follow).
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  • It was paradoxical. Attendees were similar (quallie birds of a feather flocking together) and different (they came from 20+ nations and ranged from respected veterans to newbies).
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  • It was more than the sum of its parts. Human understanding doesn’t come easy. It is fragile, ephemeral & dynamic. There is no ‘theory of everything’ which explains human behaviour: you have to give part of yourself to each project. It’s hard to convey, but the sessions built an emergent sense of wonder at what it means to spend your working life studying people and the catharsis of getting it right.
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Conversations lingered long after the closing remarks: these were new perspectives, interesting people. Hearing what others had to say, I know it’s wasn’t just me who felt – to paraphrase Lydia Fuller – like they’d found their tribe.

Katie Grundy