Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Participatory research!

Wow - read this presentation of participatory research by 16-24-year-old girls and young women in Kinshasa. An exciting piece of work supported by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and Social Development Direct (SDD). The initiative turns the "objects" of research into researchers. I trust it will yield much richer information than what you would get from a "top-down" externally-designed survey on young women in Kinshasa. And the young people who collect and analyse the information will gather skills, knowledge and strength in the process! I would expect their interviewees to benefit from the process, too.

Governments which fund development want to see "evidence-based" approaches, that is, research needs to be built into development. Fortunately, the widespread misconception that only large-scale quantitative surveys and experiments yield reliable evidence appears to be fading.
Experiments such as randomised controlled trials (RCT) can be useful in certain fields where the cause-to-effect chains are quite clear, for instance when testing the effectiveness of a vaccine or of a new agricultural technique. But when you study more complex social issues, frequent in development work, you need to ask plenty of questions about the "why" and "how" of a certain phenomenon and the ways it might change. This is what qualitative research is about.  The type of participatory qualitative research that is happening in this project in Kinshasa combines at least two advantages: (i) it will yield a comprehensive picture of the situation of girls and young women in Kinshasa, (ii) whose voices will be heard loud and clear.