By Pasquale (Pat) Pellegrini

On a sunny morning in early May, the Insights Association Canada Chapter (IACC) presented its Cultural Intelligence event at George Brown College’s Waterfront Campus. It was a triumphant return to in-person events since the last in-person event for IACC in early 2019. With a mix of new and experienced Board members, we wanted a “small, focused event” Toronto based around strong educational content that would also allow ample networking and learning opportunities for a community of insights professionals and students that were craving interacting without a screen. In just a few short weeks, the small event grew and grew, and we sold out to well over 125 registrations weeks before the occasion!

Cultural Intelligence was an obvious first choice as a content theme for our return to in-person events. Cultural intelligence means becoming aware of our own cultural biases and assumptions, being open-minded, working on relating to people from other cultures beyond speaking their language or tolerating differences. It means empathizing and actively working to understand customs and norms of cultures outside of your own. The more cultural intelligence you have, the more you recognize that different people have different ways of thinking or expressing themselves. It opens the door for celebrating diversity and being more inclusive, supportive, and effective, whether as a human, friend, team member, leader, or a marketer.

We all see diversity every day. Far beyond the many cultures and diversity of nationality, ethnicity, and beliefs in this room, or around the largest cities in Canada where growth was fueled by immigration for decades, there exists diversity in gender identity, sexual orientation, backgrounds, experiences, and neurodiversity. The challenge is formidable.

A little over five and a half years ago, I joined Vividata and said to my team, my board, my members, “let’s fill the research gaps in understanding ALL Canadians.” My motivation stemmed from growing up in an immigrant and ethnic family in an immigrant neighbourhood and eventually becoming aware that marketing completely ignored many new and established cultures in Canada. The solution was simply to “measure the right things, the right way” as my many mentors instilled in me, and these expensive and difficult to conduct studies will pay for themselves eventually, and they did. Soon we realized we had a lot of like-minded and extremely talented partners, suppliers, members, friends, and colleagues around us, many who had been working on cultural intelligence long before us.

The Cultural Intelligence event showcased that we have all learned so much, and we were fortunate to be able to gather so much great content and dynamic speakers. With one focused stream to enjoy, the attendees were immersed in learning and, in turn, were engaging in thoughtful discussions with the speakers.

We were honored to have with us Elder Garry Sault to open the event with a smudge ceremony. Elder Sault is an Ojibway Elder for the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. His people signed over 20 pre-confederation treaties with the Crown which covers most of the Golden Horseshoe. He is a Veteran and served in the United States Navy. He resides on the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation with his wife of 48 years and enjoys spending time with his 15 grandchildren. Elder Sault is also a storyteller and has welcomed King Charles (then still Prince), two Prime Ministers, three Premiers, many Chiefs, Environmentalists and many more to the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.

Researching and engaging with indigenous communities “in a good way” was the focus of the first paper by Ashley Sisco and Jana George of Sisco and Associate Consulting. With a wealth of experience to share with the attendees, Ashley and Jana provided the do’s and don’ts of research with indigenous peoples. This first presentation really set the tone for the entire day with presenters sharing key insights on cultural research in Canada. Vividata’s Rahul Sethi and Michael Fragomeni followed with their presentation based on two of the largest consumer databases in Canada, the Study of the Canadian Consumer (SCC) and the SCC/Multicultural, for a deep dive into Canada’s newcomers. Walter Flatt delivered the Keynote Address for Dentsu with his talk on Unbiasing Data: Key Issues and Practical Ways Forward. Walter’s address tackled Artificial Intelligence and the inherent bias it brings to marketing applications from learning it does from the internet and social media.

The afternoon took a different turn with Howard Lichtman of Ethnicity Matters providing an agency perspective on effective marketing to diverse people and cultures in Canada. With decades of experience in ethnic marketing, Howard was able to use many examples of effective creative directed at diverse communities. The final paper was presented by industry legend Jan Kestle, founder and President of Environics Analytics. Jan presented data from EA’s new product that allows marketers to connect with newcomers across Canada. All the speakers then joined Hilary Borndahl of Miix Analytics for a dynamic and engaging panel session with questions and discussion from the attendees.

Obviously, an event of this magnitude and with such great content would not have been possible without the generous support of our sponsors. The IACC thanks our ten sponsors who enthusiastically supported this event: Dentsu, Sago, Miix Analytics, Element-54, Environics Analytics, Adapt Media, Pattison Outdoor, Ipsos, B3 Intelligence and Vividata.

The IACC is dedicated to fostering a vibrant, engaged market research and data analytics community across Canada. Led by an all volunteer Board that includes regional chairs located in Vancouver, Saskatoon, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax, we are devoted to helping our members develop their careers as practitioners and leaders. The IACC provides opportunities for members to advance their research and business skills, exchange information and nurture a community of insights professionals.

We accomplish this by:

  • Providing forums – both in-person and virtually – to exchange experiences, resources, and ideas
  • Offering expert educational content via conferences and webinars
  • Encouraging peer engagement and mentorship through networking events

The IACC is the home for some of the industry’s most innovative and inspirational leaders and organizations, bringing together insights professionals from research companies, consulting firms, research suppliers, technology firms, not-for-profits, trade associations, independent researchers and major corporations. We are privileged to facilitate educational and networking events for this vibrant community across Canada.

The Canada Chapter joins hundreds of companies and their teams across the US to form the Insights Association.

The overwhelming success of the Cultural Intelligence event was due to the efforts of so many volunteers, from the original IACC Board members who set up the chapter and kept things together during the pandemic years, to the new Board members who jumped in to help enthusiastically, and to the many volunteers.

For more information on IACC, visit

Pat Pellegrini is the President of IACC and the President & CEO, Vividata. In a career spanning two decades, Pat has established himself as a pioneer in audience measurement, cross-media research and consumer insights, and then successfully transitioned to senior leadership roles.

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