FEATURE8 November 2021

Theo Francis – Research Hero

Features People

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

Theo Francis, owner and managing director, GuineaPig Fieldwork 


Theo Francis founded GuineaPig Fieldwork in 2020. The company recruits participants for qualitative and quantitative market research studies in the UK and internationally. Prior to that, Francis worked at Central Fieldwork and Indiefield.

He is also a founding member and the director of Colour of Research (CORe), which was set up in 2020 to address the lack of ethnic minority representation in the research industry.

Francis was nominated as a Research Hero because of his work on CORe, specifically to address the issue of ensuring nationally representative research samples are fully representative.

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

Definitely imposter syndrome. Not having the formal education or industry experience that most of my peers have, as well as a working-class accent, I felt out of place when standing on the soapbox. However, I’ve found confidence in the realisation that by engaging in conversations that are “above my paygrade”, I’ve been able to learn from experts on an almost daily basis. This continues to be a sort of fast-tracked education for me.

I’ve also learned to reframe my lack of experience as an absence of dogmatism. Being less set in my views of “the way things are” grants me an outsider perspective that can make it easier to see the way things could/should be. Finally, I’ve learned to appreciate my working-class mannerisms, as they actually help me relate to much of my audience and add an authenticity to my words that I would not have if I opted to adapt these traits to fit in.

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

I believe (and hope) the next big trend will be a sharp increase in the inclusion of ethnically diverse professionals on company boards and senior management teams. I believe this is the only way for our industry to achieve lasting ethnic diversity. Recruiting more diverse talent at the ground level is important. However, if we want this new talent to stay, they need to see representation at the top that they can aspire to.

I do fear that there will be those who view this as tokenistic, but when these changes result in more inclusive company culture, better employment satisfaction and retention of diverse talent, countless studies suggest that companies with highly diverse teams are likely to benefit financially. If/when this happens, I think those sceptics will have less to say.

Who inspires you as a researcher?

There are many in our industry that inspire me but I’m going to say Kristin Luck. She’s a super successful, cross-sector serial entrepreneur, president of Esomar and, most importantly for me, she founded WIRe, an organisation that we at CORe idealise and unashamedly modelled ourselves after.

I don’t know her personally, but I know people that do and they cannot speak highly enough of her. I know from what I’ve seen, read and heard that she’s had to fight hard to get to where she is today and that is admirable. Above all else though, the running theme through all of her work seems to be the genuine desire to help people – which is everything I believe in.

View the full list of Research Heroes for 2021

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