Initiated and sponsored by Truth, the ED&I Changemaker Award seeks to recognise individuals in the research, insight and data analytics sector who are making specific contributions to meaningful equality, diversity and inclusion initiatives – either within their own organisations or as part of work they do in their wider communities.

Nominations were open to all and the judges looked for people who have initiated and led action to remove barriers, support change and create environments in which others – whether employees or research participants – feel a sense of belonging and safety.

Congratulations to the seven exceptional finalists below. The winner will be announced at the MRS Excellence Awards lunch on 9 June. The award reflects the MRS ED&I Council and Truth’s commitment to relentlessly drive forward and embed positive change across the sector, making equality, diversity and inclusion an integral measure of success for ourselves and our clients.

The judges

Shazia Ali MMRS, Founder, Mint Research
Daniel Cunil CMRS, Director, Bilendi-respondi
Kathryn Hall CMRS, Director, True Insights
Zoe McQuillin MMRS, Consultant, The Outsiders
Mark Thorpe FMRS, Director, Truth

The finalists



Katya Des-Etages

Senior Research Executive, Channel 4

Nominated for: Improving representation of the under and mis-represented by providing the media industry with insight that catapults organisations into action.

Katya says: “EDI is something I am incredibly passionate about, my role at Channel 4 has allowed me to carve out the perfect platform to fulfil my mission of creating positive impact in this space. Since joining Channel 4 I have been co-leading on Channel 4’s award winning insight initiative Mirror on The Industry (MOTI), this project tracks the level of representation and nature of portrayal of minority groups within TV advertising, offering tangible advice advertisers can use to improve. MOTI plays a critical role in holding the advertising industry accountable when it comes to EDI on screen and it’s results used to inform Channel 4’s Diversity In Advertising Award topics. In my short time at Channel 4 I have delivered research to further the mission of equity, diversity, and inclusion, I have worked in partnership with clients and organisations on research to effect change and I have contributed to the development of tangible initiatives that will see the media industry move into a more equitable, diverse and inclusive future.

The judges said: “In a relatively short time, Katya has helped put in place a variety of initiatives aimed and building greater inclusion.  This has stretched from bringing a focus to diversity in advertising, shining a light on the experiences of Black businesses in the UK, through  to shining a light on the needs of marginalised groups.”



Shivonne Gates

Impact & Evaluation Lead, Frontline

Nominated for: Breaking new ground in supporting researchers of colour, changing the profession, and improving research practices.

Shivonne says: “I am a founding member of Social Researchers of Colour (SROC), a professional network of over 60 researchers spanning major research agencies, civil service, several major charities, and academia. This is the first such network for the social research profession, breaking new ground in supporting researchers of colour, changing the profession, and improving research practices. Our first in-person event takes place in May 2023 for researchers of colour to network with senior leaders in the sector. This event will provide valuable opportunities for researchers to ask leaders about the industry, a key step in breaking down barriers to progression. I have long been motivated to improve inclusivity, driven by a personal interest in seeing more Black women succeed and thrive in research.”

The judges said: “Shivonne has consistently sought to drive ED&I within her organisation and beyond.  Her work in bringing ‘researchers of colour’ together, within an organised framework, has been a significant contribution to the progress of greater inclusion and equity within the sector.”



Christina Lai

User Researcher, Kainos

Nominated for: Co-creation of recommendations to improve EDI in hiring and retention across Kainos and raising the profile of neurodiversity in the workplace.

Christina says: “I lead the soft launch of Manual-of-Me as an optional tool across the company, a quickstart guide to empower colleagues to share their working preferences. Working on both hiring/retention recommendations and Manual-of-Me since 2021, I’m excited at the support/momentum it’s gathering in improving EDI across all levels. I’m an outspoken neurodiversity advocate with powerful lived experiences (backed up by Neurodiversity Inclusion training). I share internally and externally to improve inclusion of neurodivergent employees, particularly in tech/research. As a neurodivergent woman of colour who identifies as disabled, my intersectional lens is valuable; inspiring others in marginalised communities when there is little visible representation in my field.”

The judges said: “Christina is passionate about improving inclusion of neurodivergent employees. Drawing on her personal experience Manual-of-me is an innovative tool that makes a real difference to those struggling to navigate the workplace and social dynamics”.



Michelle Milner

Insight Director, the7stars

Nominated for: Her commitment to challenge the research status quo, abolish stereotypes and authentically connect.

Michelle says: “Challenging the status quo drives change so as a co-founder of the voices4all initiative I’m determined to ensure all voices are heard in quantitative research. Voices4all ensures quotas are set not just on age, gender, SEG and region, but also ethnicity, sexuality and disability. To push this further, I worked with media research partners to ensure media agencies could plan and activate media against overlooked minority groups for the first time.

In order to abolish stereotypes you need to provoke debate within the industry. I co-authored Beyond Binary – a whitepaper that explores how brands can navigate gender targeting in an increasingly non-binary world. The whitepaper inspired clients to disrupt how they define their target audiences to be more inclusive by removing gendered stereotypes.

Finally to authentically connect, I believe in spending time with those who have been previously underrepresented in research. Doing this provides first hand insight that helps brands become more inclusive.”

The judges said: “Michelle has worked tirelessly to challenge the status quo and ensure that overlooked minority groups are properly represented in research.  She has challenged prevailing stereotypes and worked to open doors and eyes within the research sector.”



Alex Owens

CMI VP & Executive Sponsor of proUd, Unilever’s LGBTQI+ Network

Nominated for: Promoting inclusive environments where people feel psychologically safe and can bring their true self to work

Alex says: ‘Equality isn’t Equal, Equity is’; “this is the cornerstone of Unilever’s ED&I Strategy.  While we promote and celebrate equality for all, we also acknowledge that we cannot do so without adding equity into the equation. I passionately believe high performing teams need to be inclusive, operating in a psychologically safe environment.  One, in which people understand their purpose respecting others’ beliefs, values, faith, sexual orientation - in fact, all aspects of a person. 

Since taking on my role as Executive Sponsor of proUd, Unilever’s LGBTQI+ network, great progress has been made. In 2019, we were bottom quartile in Workplace Pride’s external benchmark, moving to top vs competitors in 2022. In 2020, Queer’iosity was created, a Degreed Pathway, educating over 2,000 employees and this year we will officially launch, the #unstereotype playbook for LGBTQI+ in partnership with Gay Times. The objective being to educate, inspire, and guide marketeers to portray the community in an #unstereotype way”. However, none of this would be possible without the support of the community, our allies, our leadership, and our businesses belief, that a more inclusive world, is a better world for all.”

The judges said: “Alex has been a stalwart in campaigning for the rights of LGBTQ+ professionals.  His work with Unilever has helped transform the way the business engages with ED&I.  In addition, Alex is known to put himself in potentially difficult situations in order to ensure that marginalised voices are heard.”



Tom Richer

Exec, Strategic Insight, d.fferentology & Founder of The Bridge Between

Nominated for: Raising awareness of how neurodiverse audiences interact with brands and the importance of including neurodiversity in all forms of society and research.

Tom says: “My passion for neurodiversity research started when I looked for support in my relationship with my brother who is autistic. My most recent collaboration with d.fferentology ‘finding brands through a different lens’ explores how neurodiverse audiences interact with brands and gives insight into how brands can resonate with this at times overlooked consumer group. I am on the panel of MRS Unlimited and help share and direct knowledge for inclusive neurodiverse and disabled research. Bringing my initiative and life experience into the research world has been eye opening in understanding how necessary it is to include neurodiversity in all forms of society and research.”

The judges said: “Tom has worked hard to bring neurodiversity to the fore and help ensure that awareness is both deeper and broader. He has worked both within his own organisation, and beyond (e.g. with MRS Unlimited) to ensure that neurodivergence is better understood.  Tom has also worked to help brands better understand and engage with neurodiversity, so that they can be more inclusive in what they say and do.”



Naomi Sweeting

Customer Experience Director, Grand Union Housing Group

Nominated for: Identifying customers in the social housing environment that need to be understood from an equality perspective.

Naomi says: “The work I have done has embedded both professional research approaches, including governance around the MRS code, and delivered statistically robust evidence that around three quarters of customers within housing organisations have at least one condition that impacts them daily. As an immediate step, I introduced a customer panel capability that is inclusive, has removed existing barriers to participation in hearing customer voice, is open to all and can evidence representation across multiple intersecting needs.  I now regularly hear the voices of hundreds of customers across all segments.

I developed a bespoke survey with over 50 statements relating to every aspect of customers’ lives. This included some diagnostic questions relating to neurodiverse conditions, mental health and disability. A process of k cluster analysis by a professional statistician developed the segmentation model, and the fieldwork was delivered in partnership with a professional research agency to ensure customer anonymity, concerning confidential and very personal feelings and behaviours. We now have a robust and stable model with a 99% confidence level.

I am now delivering this work for other organisations in the housing sector, to embed the approach and ensure we understand our customers from a full person specific - based on capability, capacity and needs – and design our services in consideration of inclusion. I am also sharing the work with government and professional sector bodies to influence wider change. The Chartered Institute of Housing is considering the inclusion of insight during the next review of their professional qualifications”.

The judges said: “Naomi’s work around ED&I in the housing sector is leading to changes that will benefit people from diverse backgrounds for many years to come. Equality in housing is an extremely important issue, but the routes to properly understanding diverse needs has been limited.  Her work is helping to achieve greater evidence-based equality in social housing.”

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