This paper presents the results of an international workshop convened to examine verbal autopsy methods with the goal of achieving a consensus on methodological approaches. A verbal autopsy is an interview designed to identify specific medical syndromes, using information about the terminal illness elicited from relatives of the deceased person. Particular attention is paid to the difficulties of cause-specific mortality of children in developing countries.
This is a newsletter which describes the formation of the Midnet PRA group and includes a number of very short articles and thoughts on practitioners experiences with PRA in Southern Africa. Experiences shared include working with young people, in education, with periurban communities, for catchment management and for land reform. The methods used are discussed with details of venn diagrammes for community organisation, historical time lines. There are reports from trainings in Namaqualand and Namibia. The thoughts that emerged from evaluation/ reflection and planning meetings included the ideas of rapid learning and sharing and the need for more training. The final article summarises the PRA and gender workshop held at IIED in December 1993.
Integrating formal sample surveys and Rapid Rural Appraisal techniques: summary based on Rapid Rural Appraisal techniques and the monitoring and evaluation of IFAD projects in Sudan
This summary is based on a report written for the Monitoring and Evaluation Division of the IFAD, with the general objective of examining the use of RRA methods for M&E. That report proposes a taxonomy of survey/RRA techniques and methods, which can be regarded as "a menu", thereby allowing choices to fit the precise needs of the user of information and institutional context. As such, the author argues, RRAs and formal surveys can be mixed to great effect. The criteria for such a taxonomy is outlined in this paper, as is a summary table of the main RRA techniques. The lessons from case study RRAs discussed in the original report are mostly positive, confirming "the value of weaving an RRA in to existing data" and showing how a low cost M&E system could be built on this. This is a useful and stimulating report with some clear summary diagrams and an extensive bibliography.
The use of RAP in evaluation in UNICEF is briefly outlined in this paper. In UNICEF, a Rapid Assessment Procedure [RAP] exercise "includes as a central base, the use of techniques derived from the field of anthropology such as focus group discussions, observation, and unstructured one-on-one interviews, that form a body of mainly qualitative data". Normally the qualitative information derived from RAP will be used in conjunction with quantitative data, which might already be available, or which might be collected as part of a RAP investigation itself. Although the report includes an admission that "RAP is not a particularly useful type of method to use for evaluations of a participatory nature..", the author does point out that RAP evaluations do have an important role in encouraging participatory development processes in projects, and that RAP style evaluation "can be used, if so desired, as a way of instilling a sense that more peoples participation may be more desirable in a development project".
This paper describes how The Mazingira Institute in Nairobi created and used a series of illustrated learning packages on environmental issues to stimulate responses from school children. Annual competitions invited children to answer questions and submit essays and drawings on a variety of topics. The children's responses proved a valuable source of information on their perceptions of environmental issues, and traditional knowledge and action in their communities. The "information exchange with children" project helped children to link what they learned in school with what they heard from the elders in their community, and with what they could see and do themselves. The authors conclude that the distributed learning packages and responses gathered from children combine mass media with the education system, allowing the youth to address environment and development problems, and potentially linking with policy making.
The paper discusses the use and usefulness of participatory approaches in the work of Save the Children Fund (SCF). It asks how PRA can be used effectively by SCF when the nature of its work means it is unlikely to be involved purely as a facilitator in a community development process. Areas where PRA has proved useful are research, training and awareness, and participatory monitoring and evaluation. It is suggested that the awareness and skills of a growing number of staff members will gradually increase SCFs capacity to use PRA. Participatory methods are also seen as having a useful role to play in turning SCF into a more child-focused agency, and in helping to develop partnerships between SCF, local communities and partner organisations.
The article suggests that three processes - detailed field research, policy research and dissemination - need to run in parallel in order to make research relevant and accessible to policy-makers at different levels of decision-making. These processes are discussed in the context of an ActionAid research project on children's roles in development. Some of the problems with the approach and the lessons learned are discussed.
Conventional studies of child feeding practices are difficult and time-consuming, since family food use is a sensitive topic since it hinges on economic status and power relationships. The author argues that since "this information can only be obtained by workers trusted by the community, after both sides have understood and become concerned with the object of the investigation". The roles of an RRA facilitator in providing, collecting, interpreting and discussing information are outlined. Section 2 discusses 8 questions relating to feeding practices, covering problems with conventional food consumption surveys, trust between researchers and researched, the importance of relating reported to actual practices, evaluating 'satisfactory' feeding practices, understanding mothers' perceptions of practices, problems and obstacles to change, and the importance of sharing information for mutual learning between the interviewer and the community.
A Rapid Participatory Assessment of the health needs of women and their children in an urban poor area of Myanmar.
The research was carried out using participatory qualitative rapid appraisal procedures (RAPs) in order to assess the health needs of women and their children. The study was quite large involving two hundred mothers of children under five years of age. Data was collected by volunteers from the Maternal and child welfare association (MCWA) and the Myanmar Red Cross (MRC). The assessment covers planning issues of communication between formal and informal Health Services, quality of care and training through the importance of the roles of midwives and traditional birth assistants (TBAs), as well as investigating local perceptions and practices. These concern reproductive health issues, ranging from pregnancy to post-natal care and long-term problems, family planning methods, contraception in the prevention of STDs and HIV/AIDS, and abortion. Other related issues such as health financing, drugs policies, and a broader socio-cultural gender analysis are also analysed. The methodology used for this assessment is innovative, participatory and appropriate, generating a considerable amount of new data in a short time. Of particular interest may be the techniques of body mapping used by the women to identify reproductive morbidity and the side effects of birth spacing and other contraceptive methods; sexuality life lines are also used to give an awareness over time of the trials and tribulations faced in the reproductive lives of the women.
Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA): A Status Review - a concept paper prepared for African Centre for Technology (ACTS)
This paper begins by tracing the development of RRA and later PRA. PRA is defined and its origins discussed. Eight steps involved in undertaking a PRA are outlined. Some assumptions or principles of PRA are outlined and its advantages are discussed. The next section discusses applications of PRA in Kenya. These have included water and soil conservation, child health, water and sanitation, natural resource conservation, irrigation and monitoring and evaluation. The paper then discusses problems and constraints of PRA, and challenges facing PRA. Training and institutionalisation are explored and the conclusion examines the role of the African Centre for Technology in PRA.
This paper examines participatory evaluation in projects of the NGO PLAN International in Senegal. Through brief case studies it compares the viability of PRA evaluations in urban and rural contexts, and reflects upon the extent to which the methods can be used to reach the least advantaged groups in the communities. A number of criteria are used in assessing PRA as an evaluation tool: limited dependence ono external facilitators; replicability; community 'buy-in' to the process; adaptability to local time constraints; broad participation; reliability of data; turn-around time from data collection to use. The author concludes that PRA is problematic in urban settings if a 'community' is assumed in the same way as in rural areas. Some aspects for improvement (e.g. need to be more focused, and to prevent it from being appropriated by certain groups to the exclusion of others) are discussed.
Using Appreciative Enquiry As An Evaluative Tool: A Case Study on an African Project for Street Children.
This interesting article describes how the author sought to show how an appreciative inquiry technique can be used to embed a self evaluation process in an organisation that caters for the needs of street children in Africa. The paper describes using a narrative style the findings of a three day workshop using this methodology. Appreciative Inquiry works by highlighting the organisations best practice which is then used as a bench mark for all the practitioners to assess their own performance. Several problems existed within the specific context in which this workshop was held which would influence the evaluation. These problems were promptly identified by the author and listed as being as follows; i) the contrast between the rhetoric of democracy and participation on the one hand and the reality of an authoritarian style leadership on the other, ii) the great diversity in the formal education and training levels of the participants, iii) the bias that existed in the organisation which favoured the caring/counselling role but left a gap in the administrative and finance functions and iv) what was described by the author as a kind of 'corporate introspection' where the organisation and it's participants felt undervalued by the donor communities because of the nature of their work. The key technique utilised by the appreciative inquiry methodology was that of story telling and PRA style mapping. The events of the workshop are clearly described in this paper which is generally refreshingly simple in it's style.
Moving Slowly and Reaching Far : Institutionalising Participatory Planning for child-centered community development - an interim analysis for Redd Barna Uganda and Participatory planning in Redd Barna Uganda : reflections and guidelines.
The first part of the this report reviews the follow-up phase to attempts by Redd Barna Uganda and the Sustainable Agriculture Programme of IIED to institutionalise participatory planning for child-centred community development. While several impacts were noted (increased training and planning capacity within RBU, improved agency-community working relationships, attitudinal changes), weaknesses were also apparent, and recommendations to improve these areas are included. Part II gives the background to PRA in RBU, identifies models of PRA processes and partnerships, and reviews five phases of participatory planning undertaken.