At HRW, recognised in the industry as innovative thought leaders, we are passionate about our company and how we can contribute individually to ensure the HRW engine is running smoothly.

So, back in December 2017, a new idea sprung to life in the form of our very first ‘HRW Innovation Challenge’ – a company-wide competition which encompasses all areas of the business, including ideas for new approaches to project management, technology, deliverables, and methodologies. The passion and ingenuity demonstrated by all team members resulted in the Innovation Challenge becoming a highly anticipated annual event in the HRW calendar, with the 2019 instalment adding to previous successes.

This year, seven teams looked at their immediate environment, as well as outside of their department, and presented high calibre ideas to the Innovation Challenge panel. After two rounds of pitching and planning, the winners in the two categories, internal innovation and external innovation, were announced:


Iona Gilles and Emma Jackson – “Take a Tea”



Named after the constellation “Hercules” or ‘kneeler’ – this award recognises innovation with potential to improve internal processes and employee satisfaction.

Iona and Emma won this award because they recognised the challenge of taking rest time. They devised and piloted a scheme called ‘Take a Tea’ to help us all look out for each other and encourage our colleagues to take even small breaks to step away from desks and recuperate from hard work.

HRW Academy graduate intakes Emma Jackson (on the left) and Iona Gilles (on the right) were over the moon, explaining:



Emma: Iona and I decided to enter the Innovation Challenge when we joined HRW, which was a great opportunity to put our heads together and think of a creative way to improve the wellbeing, happiness and growth of our fellow colleagues. We decided that ‘Take a Tea’ would be a great way to encourage rest time and reward hard work of both individuals and teams. This was especially important to us coming from social science backgrounds, as we wanted to incorporate our passion for social and cultural wellness within the workplace.

We were really surprised to find out we had won the challenge, especially as we were competing with some other brilliant ideas. It was great to see our hard work had paid off and I can’t wait to see ‘Take a Tea’ implemented across the company!

Iona: I had so much fun (and cups of tea) taking part in the HRW Innovation Challenge! I was told about the challenge on my second day, so was a little nervous at first about putting an idea forward, but I was made to feel so welcome and was actively encouraged to sign up despite being so new!

As I was so new, I didn’t really know anyone that well, but I approached Emma with ‘Take a Tea’ and she was so helpful in expanding the idea (as well as being a guinea pig in the pilot study). I think getting to work closer with Emma was, in fact, the best part of the challenge. We were both new, so it gave us a chance to get to know each other and having her there in the presentations made it far less daunting.

When we won, I was on holiday, so Emma messaged me- I had a cup of tea to celebrate! We’re currently in the process of planning a launch day to introduce it to the company. We’ve already had a lot of fun chatting with the innovation team and HR to think of exciting things we could do to get everyone on board. It really is so nice to be part of a company that helps drive your ideas forward, no matter how crazy they may seem (spoiler alert: HRW branded marshmallows could be in the works!).


Laura Anderson and Jen Vos – “The Bridge”



Named after the constellation “Auriga” or ‘reign holder’ – this award recognises innovation with potential to impact client-facing research.

Laura and Jen won this award for their idea, “The Bridge: Optimising Information Sharing Between Research and Field.” This control sheet streamlines communication and creates efficiencies that benefit both internal and external operations by reducing duplication of effort, ultimately allowing research teams to get back to clients faster, increasing client satisfaction.

Laura Anderson (on the left) and Jen Vos (on the right) could not believe it:



Laura: Working on this idea and actually winning has been an honour. The entire process from working alongside very talented colleagues, having guidance from a knowledgeable mentor, receiving feedback from senior members of the company and presenting the idea in front of a judge panel, who are very invested in this challenge, has been a great learning experience. Being part of a company that values and takes into consideration its employees’ ideas is very gratifying.

Jen: This has been such a cool experience! From being able to create and develop the idea, to getting guidance from a thoughtful and knowledgeable mentor, we really got to build something that we cared about and that will benefit the HRW team. To win the challenge was such an honour, especially being in the company of so many incredible people here at HRW. It was such a wonderful feeling to have my voice and idea not only heard but embraced, and I am so excited to bring the idea through to the final stage of implementation!

The happy winners were presented with an extra day holiday, a certificate, and the support of the business in taking their plans forward. All ideas were of exceptionally high standard again this year, and many other ideas will still be actioned in some shape or form going forward. The HRW Innovation Challenge proves yet again that innovation can be created at home if you provide the right platform and opportunity.

If you’re interested in how our team innovates, or how to use innovative approaches in your research, get in touch to find out more.


By Sonja Berrer

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