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Finishing the Fieldwork: Jita Test, Final Days

Our wonderful research assistants and our friends at Jita will complete the final work on the pilot test Wednesday.  Melea, Catherine, and I are now back in the UK and will be working with the team from a distance, halfway in world time between Bangladesh and Champaign, Illinois, where our partners from the ATLAS lab at the University of Illinois will be helping us manage the digital side of things.

The girls. From left, Nil, Catherine, Melea, Famy, Antora, and Radia. Every night, this crowd (plus me and Jim) sat for hours at dinner, debriefing and learning from each other. It was simply a wonderful experience.

The process that we have learned across several experiences involves intensive back-and-forth.  First, between the UK team and the US team to design the questionnaire and program the iPad to deliver the survey using SurveyGizmo.  Then, between the ground team and the ATLAS folks to further refine the survey in response to the local setting. Keep in mind that this is a field site where we have already been working for nearly five years.  So, it’s not that we don’t know the setting.  But there is always room to be better engaged with local expectations, especially when you are asking questions about the small and private details of daily life.

Here they are! The ATLAS team, from left: Dawn, Nick, Kit, Laura, John, Maryalice.

Here are, from left, Radia, Amena, and me. When we got into trouble with the imam in one village, I texted Saif to give him a heads up. His first step was to send Amena out to us. The respect she commands among the communities is substantial. She came to Jita from CARE, which has been in Bangladesh since the 1970s and has incredible amounts of credibility built up by people like Amena.

Saif Al-Rashid and Meshba Ahmed lead the Jita effort in Bangladesh. When Catherine arrived in Dhaka, her first step was to work through the instrument with them, taking their ideas and feeding them back to both the US and UK teams for adaptation.

So, when Catherine arrived in Dhaka several weeks ago, she sat down, first with our colleagues at Jita and then with our RAs, to sift through every question we had previously written, by working the survey on the iPads.  The purpose was to go over suitability and language, as well as to ensure the workability of the technology.  Once we were all in the field, we continued to adapt the questionnaire as needed, to be sure that it was meeting local requirements.

This is a really intense process–and admittedly we could probably stand to streamline it a bit–but I also feel it is far more responsive, adaptive, and therefore culturally engaged than the traditional,

top-down “here is our survey, now translate it” arrangements of the past. This iterative process is greatly facilitated by the iPad and SurveyGizmo technology, but also by the highly engaged help we get from the ATLAS staff, along with the careful and patient input we get from our field partners.

Here is Nilmoni on his motorbike. The first day, Nilmoni walked through the non-Jita village with Jim and me, choosing every 30th house, as instructed by the ATLAS team. (Next time, I am going to ask them to choose a smaller number!)

Anyway, the ground team goes back to the villages this week, this time to ask follow-up questions from an intervention we left in place on our last visit.

So, I thought it was time to say thank you to all who helped.  We are grateful to the ATLAS staff, who work with us on questionnaire development, as well as programming and data management–and, later, analysis.  The CEO of Jita, Saif Al-Rashid, has been our partner in this research from the beginning–he is always an inspiration.  Meshba Ahmed, who joined Jita just last spring, organized everything brilliantly for us, right down to getting Catherine to a doctor when she became sick in Dhaka, and will lead the team back to the field this week.  Our research assistants are the heart of this project–we appreciated their help and also enjoyed getting to know them as people (Jim says he feels we acquired four new daughters this month). Then, there were the many people in the Jita office where we were working who helped select the sample (walking down the road, counting off houses, randomly knocking on the door of the nth one), facilitated relations with the community, made sure we were transported and comfortable, and just generally acted as the most gracious of hosts.

The guys: organizers, interviewers, bodyguards, and all-round support. From left, Arafat, Hafiz, Jim, Amir, and Nilmoni.

Read more about the research, case study, and blogs from the past few days on the CARE Bangladesh RSP: Now “Jita” page. 


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