How do we support farmers to replant after a flood? Give a platform for unemployed young people to find suitable work? Help tenants to overcome housing problems? Or assist women to escape domestic violence?
Finding the best ways to help people facing problems resulting from social injustice, economic shocks and crises - like COVID-19 and climate change - is not easy, whoever and wherever they are. While there's no easy answer, an essential factor in effective action is listening carefully to those being offered help. Satellite pictures and online surveys can tell us some things, but they are no substitute for hearing how those on the ground themselves describe what is happening to them and why.
For more than ten years, Professor James Copestake at the Centre for Development Studies has collaborated with development organisations around the world to find reliable and cost-effective ways to do precisely this.
Reducing bias with the QuIP
The result is the Qualitative Impact Protocol (QuIP). This involves gathering qualitative data (using interviews and focus group discussions) and analysing it in transparent ways to identify how respondents experience the effects of development assistance on their lives and livelihoods. Field staff gather the information with the minimum of reference to the project or programme being evaluated, helping to reduce confirmation bias and to generate more balanced findings.
Action research with the QuIP in Malawi and Ethiopia led to the formation of a non-profit company – Bath Social and Development Research Ltd. (Bath SDR) - to encourage its use more widely and sustainably. Five years later the QuiP has been used to bring local voices to the fore across more than 20 countries, including the UK.
‘It paints an honest picture of what's going on from the perspective of our intended beneficiaries.’ - Everett Peachey, Acting Director of the Aga Khan Development Network’s Quality of Life Unit
How the QuIP works
QuIP interviews and discussions start by finding out what changes (positive and/or negative) in their lives participants choose to highlight. Experienced field staff then collect and record people’s own explanations for why these things have happened.
The field staff usually do not belong to the organisation seeking the feedback, and often don't even know the organisation. This independence helps to secure fuller and more reliable evidence of what is happening.
The stories obtained are carefully translated, coded, analysed and turned into graphics that summarise what is happening. Bath SDR has been at the forefront of designing and testing a software package called Causal Map to do this.
The organisation sponsoring the QuIP then compares these findings with what it previously thought. This helps them to act on differences to improve their work.
'One of the reasons we chose the QuIP was the fact that the adolescent girls themselves would have a chance to share their own stories of change, hence making their perspectives heard. QuIP also worked better for this study due to our constrained budget.' - Rosemary Nyaga Monitoring and Evaluation Manager, Feed the Children