Dispatch from the Road: In-home Ethnographies in Kansas City


It’s been a busy few weeks, including a mid-winter trip to America’s heartland! I had never been to Kansas City before, so when I was approached by a food company who wanted to get to know their core consumer (midwest moms aged 25-39) better, I jumped at the chance. I spent two days going into people’s homes all over the Kansas City area: moms of babies, moms of teenagers, one mom with SIX (!!) kids, fancy new houses, crowded little apartments… I’m so grateful to all the women who opened their hearts and their refrigerators to us!

I’m always a little awed by respondents — they spill their guts to me, a perfect stranger, and are usually willing to roll with the punches in what is admittedly a pretty weird situation for them. In-home research participants are especially impressive. Imagine you get a phone call from a research company who asks you a few questions and then tells you you qualify to participate in a research study and you’ll make a little money– maybe $100 or $150. Sounds good so far. Then they tell you someone will be coming to your house. You don’t have to clean up or do anything special, but you do have to make sure all your kids and pets are taken care of and out of the way for a few hours. This is starting to sound a bit more involved…

THEN, on the day of the interview, a clown car pulls up in front of your house and five people get out, charge into your living room, and start firing questions at you not just about what you eat and how you spend your time, but about all your deepest hopes and fears for yourself and your kids.

I really don’t know how I would deal with this situation if I was the one getting asked all the questions. But all the women we spoke to were so gracious, kind, and open– it really was a privilege to get to see the world through their eyes. In a country that lately seems to be crumbling around us, I felt lifted up and energized by their optimism and willingness to share.

Avatar photo

Founder of Southpaw Insights