FEATURE8 November 2021

Steven Lacey – Research Hero

Features People

This year, the Market Research Society launched the Research Heroes programme to celebrate the sector’s unsung heroes. Steven Lacey has joined the cadre of Research Heroes 2021.

Steven Lacey, managing director and owner, The Outsiders 


Steven Lacey is managing director and owner at The Outsiders, the insight agency he founded in 2016. The Outsiders specialises in cultural research and research with people from working class (C2D) backgrounds, hard-to-reach groups and diverse audiences.

Lacey is also the co-founder of MRS Unlimited, alongside Vanella Jackson, chief executive of Hall & Partners. The network, for researchers with physical disabilities or who are neurodiverse, aims to create change in the way the research industry, business and wider society treats and behave around disability.

In addition to leading The Outsiders and jointly running MRS Unlimited, Lacey also leads the Cultural Insights Forum, a series of regular industry events bringing together the latest cultural research to help planners and marketers understand what it means for brands and communications.

Lacey was nominated as a Research Hero for his “drive to include other under-represented sectors, such as those with disabilities”.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced during your career?

As a disabled researcher I have faced a number of barriers getting into the research industry – it took me a long time to find a research agency that was forward thinking enough to understand that having a disability in no way impacted on my ability to moderate, and in fact is a secret weapon as it disarms respondents and makes them more open.

However, my biggest barrier is the fact that I am neurodiverse and dyslexic, and this often meant that I felt stupid and lacked the belief that my research findings were any good.

What will be the next big trend or development in the research industry, and why?

I am extremely proud of the steps that the Market Research Society is pushing forward with diversity agenda; I see this continuing. However, in the next few years I see the industry focusing much more on ‘diversity of thought’, so we truly have a range of opinions/views and hopefully the class barrier will come down.

Who inspires you as a researcher?

I have been inspired by a number of people within the industry, namely:

  • David Iddiols, who taught me how to understand client briefs and to present with confidence
  • Jon Cohen, who taught me the power of creative research
  • Stuart Knapman, for teaching me the power of storytelling
  • Alex Charlton, for teaching me the craft of analysis
  • Daniel Baldwin and Dave Kaye for showing me the power of film
  • Konrad Collao and Ian Murray for constantly amazing me with their insights
  • Zoe Mcquillin for constantly pushing my thinking.

View the full list of Research Heroes for 2021

In Spring 2022, MRS will be requesting nominations for Research Heroes 2022.