Nearly all projects that Rapid Asia carries out has some qualitative component. When done on their own they are sometimes referred to as ‘rapid appraisals’. Rapid appraisals are useful when time and resources are limited.
Whilst qualitative work doesn’t carry the same weight as a comprehensive quantitative survey, they can serve as a complimentary tool for probing deeper into a particular issue, region or target group.
Here follows an outline of some of the popular techniques used and when they can be helpful.
Focus Groups – To gain insight and ideas through the use of group dynamics. Important that groups are homogeneous and that the discussion does not deal with a topic that is too sensitive. Qualified moderators are needed.
Depth Interviews / key informant interviews – To build rich insight around a particular issue or topic. Often used with stakeholders for whom there are time constraints or to discuss a sensitive topic. Qualified moderators are needed especially for key informant interviews.
Semi Structured Interviews – Applies a mix between quantitative and qualitative questions. Can be carried out as a cost-effective alternative to depth interviews in cases when fully qualified moderators are not available.
Participatory Learning & Action (PLA) – This is a collaborative method to test new ideas and implement action for change and is often applied in rural communities. Rather than technical rigor, the focus is on exploring learning and other challenges and practical significance through extensive involvement from participant.
Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) – The objective of this approach is to incorporate the knowledge and opinions of rural people in the planning and management of social development programmes through the use of various tools such as Group dynamics, social mapping, Interviewing, and Visualization. This is a cost effective approach for hard to reach communities and can be useful in instances where findings from one village can be generalized to other villages.
Participant Observation – With roots in anthropology, this multi-disciplinary method uses a mix of observation, interview and participation to gain an intimate look at a specific target group through involvement with people in their natural environment. If done over a longer term, this method has potential for gaining insight into observed behavior change.
Ethnography – Based on personal experience, this is an in-depth approach through conversation and observation of daily activities to discover local beliefs and perceptions as well as longitudinal behavior change. This method can be effective in revealing cultural common denominators in relation to the topic being studied.