Empowering Enquiry

Case Story suggested guidelines

We need:

some short welcome messages from champions for the Swahili Karibu page and for the beginning of the page on each process – to make things welcoming and human to visitors


  • general environment and context, crops, richest and poorest houses, markets
  • people with their house and economic activities – particularly anything unusual. Or extremely good quality coffee.
  • people with their families eg doing things achieved on their gender balance tree – to show how differently things can be done
  • people sharing GALS with others in their houses and/or meetings – to show the facilitation process
  • peoples’ diagrams on the walls in their houses and/or in their notebooks with description or annotation (just lots of pictures does not mean much to outside visitors to the website)

Video clips or spoken interview


  • the champions introduce themselves briefly – name, what they do, family background, leadership positions
  • when did they first learn GALS

Catalyst tools:

  • what was their vision, including ownership issues
  • their vision journey – what have they achieved, what were the opportunities, what were the challenges, what is their plan now?
  • their gender balance tree – what were the things they wanted to change, what have they achieved, what is their plan now?
  • empowerment leadership map – who did they plan to share with? what have they achieved? what is their plan now?

Livelihood tools

  • what was their vision?
  • challenge action tree
  • market map
  • livelihood calendar

including effects on coffee production

Leadership tools

  • what was their vision? what do they think good leadership is?
  • leadership vision journey

(informally ask about issues in governance)


  • what are the main things they like about GALS
  • what are the main achievements they value most?
  • what things do they think could be improved?
  • how would they persuade other people to join?

For print version click Case Story Suggested Guidelines

Empowering Enquiry

Quantitative methods

Advocacy campaigns often require justification through ‘rigorous’ quantitative information on large numbers of people. Quantitative methods as they are commonly conceived derive from experimental and statistical methods in natural science.

The main concern is with rigorous objective measurement in order to determine the truth or falsehood of particular pre-determined hypotheses.

  • the main focus is on measuring ‘how much is happening to how many people’.
  • the main tools are large scale surveys analysed using statistical techniques. Quantitative measurable indicators relevant to the pre-determined hypotheses are identified and combined into questionnaires.
  • questionnaires are then conducted for a random sample or stratified random sample of individuals, often including a control group.
  • causality is assessed through comparison of the incidence of the variables under consideration between main sample and control group and/or the degree to which they co-occur.
  • in large-scale research projects teams are composed of a number of skilled research designers and analysts assisted by teams of local enumerators.

Use of quantitative methods on their own have a tendency to reduce complex issues, including gender issues, to simplistic indicators chosen for ease of measurement, but which may not be the most important or relevant in planning for change.

Empowering Enquiry in Quantitative Research

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

For easily accessible overviews of the strengths and pitfalls of different statistical techniques see the website for Statsoft For access to many further resources see the quantitative methods, statistics and quantitative database sections on the MathsZone and websites.

Empowering Enquiry

Qualitative Methods

Qualitative methods have their origins in the humanities: sociology, anthropology, geography and history. They aim to obtain a holistic understanding of complex realities and processes where questions and hypotheses emerge cumulatively as the investigation progresses.

Qualitative methods:

  • typically focus on compiling a selection of microlevel Case Studies using a combination of informal interviews, participant observation and more recently visual media like photography.
  • questions are broad and open-ended, changing and developing over time to fill in a ‘jigsaw’ of differing accounts of ‘reality’, identifying which may be said to be generally ‘true’ and which are specific and subjective and why.
  • different sampling methods are combined: different purposive sampling techniques, identification of key informants and also ‘random encounters’.
  • causality and attribution are directly investigated through questionning as well as qualitative analysis of data. Computer programmes are used to deal systematically with large amounts of data.
  • in-depth qualitative research requires a skilled researcher in the field who engages in a reflexive process of data collection and analysis over a period of time.

Good qualitative research can reveal very powerful messages and illustrative cases which can be used in advocacy campaigns.

Gender issues, and particularly concepts like empowerment and sensitive issues like violence are often seen as best researched using qualitative methods. However this has often led to gender issues being marginalised and relegated to superficial anecdotes rather than fully integrated into ‘mainstream’ research.

For more discussion of qualitative methods see:

Qualitative Methods

The Forum for Qualitative Research website brings together resources and debates on qualitative methods in English and other European languages.


Empowering Enquiry

Participatory Methods

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

Participatory methods have their origins in development activism: NGOs and social movements. The main aim is not only knowledge per se, but social change and empowerment wherever possible as a direct result of the research process itself. In particular it seeks to investigate and give voice to those groups in society who are most vulnerable and marginalised in development decision-making and implementation.

The participatory process may involve small focus groups, larger participatory workshops or individual diaries and diagrams which are then collated into a plenary discussion. Participatory research typically uses and adapts diagram tools from farmer-led research, systems analysis and also oral and visual tools from anthropology as well as tools developed by NGOs and participants in the field. In some cases (eg GALS) local people themselves conduct research following initial design of specific tools and training. There has recently been an interest in the use of participatory photography, video and theatre as a means of exploring and disseminated advocacy messages.

At the same time participation also has potential costs as well as benefits for all concerned. Participatory methods are often used badly – failing to collect reliable information and dominated by existing vested interests. In relation to gender there are specific challenges in:

  • going beyond stereotypes
  • opening spaces for women and men to discuss sensitive and potentially conflictual gender issues
  • giving spaces for both women and men from different backgrounds to discuss separately and together
  • negotiating conflicts of interest in analysis