Iraq is a complex society with a history of social, cultural and ethnic divisions, as well as a young population with fast developing attitudes and expectations. So how do you conduct an in-depth study of people’s views about their country and future in a post-conflict society – in which recruiting participants, building trust and overcoming digital problems are just a few of the challenges?


  • Caroline McGarr, thinkbank
  • Rebaz Nuri, thinkbank
  • Alex Lewis, Zinc Network

What you’ll learn

  • An understanding of the complexities of running fieldwork in post-conflict markets like Iraq, and creative solutions to these challenges
  • Realistic examples of applying quality control measures in difficult research environments
  • Techniques for reaching groups excluded from online and other methodologies
  • An example of how area specialists can inform and enhance data collection of sector/communications specialists
  • An overview of how research can be used to inform communications activities

Zinc Network set out to explore how Iraqis felt about their future, to inform an Arabic language communications campaign. Desk research and social media monitoring were able to show why a deep groundswell of frustration and anger that had erupted into nationwide protests continued to define how Iraqis communicated online about their country and their future.

But Zinc wanted to go beyond social media data to understand what Iraqis’ key priorities were for the future, and how these priorities differed across region, age, gender and religious groups – so enlisted the help of local experts thinkbank.

The recruitment challenges for the research broadly fell into three categories:

  • Cultural - The most challenging cultural consideration is reaching women, particularly younger women from conservative backgrounds. This is a challenge in any methodology – F2F, telephone or online – but the added difficulty online is how to find them. Social media profiles alone are not a reliable method, as many women use male profiles. Instead, thinkbank used specific recruitment techniques to attract females across social media using appropriate images and messaging.
  • Digital access - Intermittent electricity, poor 3G coverage outside cities and high costs mean varying degrees of access to different groups and strong regional variation. Identifying hard to reach groups, understanding the additional effort required and explaining the realities to clients is key.
  • Trust - It’s crucial in every area of research, but more so in a post-conflict environment where lower levels of trust exist in day-to-day life. Transparent and plain communication is essential and requires a local team who can provide culturally appropriate and immediate responses where necessary. Building a reputation online, sharing engaging information for a population starved of it, and compensating fairly and on time are also key.

Zinc used the insights collected through the research to build its message house, review the campaign’s overarching narrative, fine-tune tone and establish key thematic pillars. It shortlisted the best performing key messages based on respondents’ feedback and started deploying these messages online, using a robust editorial approach driven by data, insight and local intelligence. 

Overlaying this with the social media data still being collected every week created a dynamic and iterative approach that enabled Zinc to design the content and messaging likely to have the most resonance, credibility and impact with its audience. 

To date, Zinc has produced 306 communication products – including short animations, selfie videos, sketches, visual assets and mini blog posts – generating 560,000 engagements, 340,000 reactions and building a community of 10.9m followers across a network of partners, influencers and content creators. 



Caroline McGarr, Managing Director and co-founder at thinkbank, has lived and worked in Iraq since 2016 and co-founded thinkbank with Iraqi partners in 2018. She has over 10 years of market research experience with leading agencies including Ipsos, GfK and YouGov. She has served major brands in a range of sectors covering logistics, telecommunications, finance, energy and public affairs.
In Iraq, Caroline has headed consumer and B2B projects for clients such as Lafarge, Careem and Viber, as well as supporting monitoring and evaluation for international government projects and strategic communications. She authored the white paper ‘Introducing the Iraqi Consumer’ based on thinkbank’s Iraq Consumer 2020 study. Prior to Iraq, Caroline’s experience has mainly been in London but has also included stints in Egypt and South Sudan.
Caroline is a graduate of King’s College, London. She holds an Advanced Certificate in Social and Market Research and is a member of ESOMAR.

Rebaz Nuri, Operations Director and co-founder at thinkbank, is an Iraqi national with over nine years’ experience in research in Iraq. He has worked as Head of Sulaymaniyah office at YouGov, Research Director at Hama Advertising, as well as leading on major research projects for Oxfam, IRC and USIP.
In research operations, Rebaz has developed a strong network of interviewers and moderators across Iraq. He has implemented large-scale quantitative studies, including face-to-face representative consumer tracking surveys. He has set up and managed hundreds of focus groups and depth interviews assessing media and brand campaigns, as well as ethnographic studies. Rebaz is an experienced moderator and interviewer, as well as translator, including simultaneous translation.
Rebaz has a Master’s degree in Linguistics from Sheffield University and a BA in English Language and Literature, University of Sulaymaniyah, Iraq.

Alex has been a Quantitative Research Manager at Zinc Network since March 2020. In addition to his work with ThinkBank in Iraq, Alex has managed opinion polling across the UK, eastern Europe and Middle East as part of Zinc’s mission to deliver meaningful, measurable change around some of those most complex social issues facing the world today.


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