Our approach

Our approach

Through bespoke research projects, we enable our partners to listen to the views of ordinary people as expressed in real social spaces. We design mixed methods research projects that are grounded in social science theories, engage citizens through digital channels, and deliver robust, credible evidence to inform development and governance programmes.All of our projects begin with a tailored research design and a set of research questions, developed in collaboration with our partners to ensure it addresses their needs. For example:

RESEARCH DESIGN

By leveraging Africa’s digital revolution, we spark dynamic and inclusive discussions in popular forums, including radio and social media, to collect data on people’s beliefs and opinions. Working with carefully selected and locally trusted media partners, we develop open-ended questions for audiences that encourage participation from all demographic groups. Referring to socio-cognitive theories, we consider how these questions will be processed and answered by audiences, then test and tailor for comprehension and specific cultural contexts. Usually in a binary ‘yes/no’ and ‘why’ format, the questions posed seek contrasting opinions in order to promote lively and plural discussion.

Audiences participate and share their views via free SMS or instant messaging. Follow-up surveys then ask for socio-demographic information (e.g. gender, age, and location) to allow for comparisons between groups, as well as closed questions (e.g. related practices). Within these forums, opinions and beliefs are expressed spontaneously, resulting in authentic citizen-generated data.

DATA ANALYSIS

Unlike statistical surveys, which often fail to capture the nuances of beliefs and opinions, our approach allows us to gain insights from conversations held in local languages, and on a scale previously unattainable for qualitative methods. We make sense of complex, conversational data by applying tailored analytics, developed with researchers at the University of Cambridge. After employing both manual and automated labelling techniques to clean and prepare the data, the processed datasets enter our purposefully-built interface for data exploration. This provides a streamlined way to interpret the data, build language resources, and lay the foundations for qualitative analysis.

Using a social science lens, we identify patterns in the data, and discover how individual and collective beliefs, knowledge and practices, vary between different groups in society and change over time. We can automate and scale-up our analysis using artificial intelligence techniques, such as machine-learning. This combination of qualitative and quantitative approaches – semantic networks, grounded theory, thematic analysis, etc – allows us to increase both the scope and depth of our research.

OUTPUTS

We enable our partners to listen to the views of ordinary people as expressed in real social spaces, delivering insights and actionable recommendations in reports, presentations, and interactive dashboards. By providing them with up-to-date and robust evidence, they are able to shape their programmes according to the needs and expectations of their target populations.

Through ongoing partnerships with the University of Cambridge, we are able to inform our work with the latest developments in cutting-edge research, helping us to prototype and test new tools and methods tailored to the practical demands of each project.

 

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