Empowering Enquiry

Advocacy campaigns often need to base themselves on research in order to convince policy makers as well as raise awareness in the affected populations. The best way of collecting this information is generally through well-designed participatory processes and rigorous use of participatory tools.

At the same time the sheer numbers of people involved in order to give sufficient weight to advocacy campaigns create a range of differing perspectives and potential conflicts of interest. This means that research requires both in depth qualitative understanding of differing perspectives in order to avoid simplistic stereotyping and rigorous quantification and analysis in order to minimise domination by vocal vested interests.

Empowering enquiry uses an integrated methodology that builds on the complementarities between participatory, qualitative and quantitative methods in order to build on strengths, crosscheck and triangulate the information which is most crucial for addressing the particular research questions concerned and also try to disseminate information in different ways for different audiences in order to ensure, as far as possible, benefits for outcomes for participants.

Participatory Framework

Participatory methods  play a central role at all stages from conception, through piloting and refinement to the research proper and then finally dissemination. Using participatory methods as the ‘first port of call’, has many advantages in terms of rapidity and reliability of collecting many types of qualitative as well as quantitative information, manageability in terms of time and resources and also its potential for contributing to the development process. They are also generally an essential component of research dissemination to those participating in the research, a stage which is commonly ignored and omitted, but essential for accountability and implementation of advocacy goals.

Although any one single research process cannot resolve all the tensions and trade-offs inherent in gender transformation, participatory methods can make a contribution as part of an ongoing multi-stakeholder learning process to:

•  building up capacities and structures for ongoing representation of poor women and men and other vulnerable people in the policy making process.

•  facilitating direct interaction between powerful stakeholders and poor people in order to break down the barriers of complacency, misinformation and prejudice which are in themselves key causes of poverty.

For more discussion of using participatory methods as the basis for advocacy and other research see:

Principles of Empowering Enquiry

All research and impact assessment methodologies, including statistical surveys, informal interviews as well as participatory methods, can be more empowering for those giving their valuable time to answering questions.

Empowering Enquiry provides simple guidelines that can underpin any methodology.

  1. Stakeholder participation
  • ensure inclusion and informed participation of the most vulnerable stakeholders
  • include these stakeholders in those stages in research where participation can be most directly empowering to them. Participation may be more important at the design, analysis and dissemination stages than the actual collection of information itself.

2) Design of questionnaires, interviews and participatory meetings to contribute to increasing people’s understanding of their situation and ways forward as well extracting information without necessarily increasing their length. Questions can be sequenced to:

  • start by clarifying the vision people have
  • celebrate what they have already achieved
  • identify challenges to further progress
  • identify clear concrete strategies for moving further along the road to their vision.

3) The research process itself aims to contribute to an ongoing multi-stakeholder learning process through:

•  building up capacities and structures for ongoing representation of poor women and men and other vulnerable people in the policy making process.

•  facilitating direct interaction between powerful stakeholders and poor people in order to break down the barriers of complacency, misinformation and prejudice which are in themselves key causes of gender inequality and poverty.

For more details see the Empowering Enquiry Toolkit:

What is Empowering Enquiry?

1: What do we want to know? Selecting Indicators
2: Whom do we ask? Sampling
3: How do we find out? Collecting Information
4:What Do We Do with it? Documentation and dissemination

Gender inequalities raise particular challenges for all types of research: participatory, quantitative and qualitative. See:

Intra-household Impact Assessment 2005