I was invited to attend the monthly public meeting of the Gender Based Violence Commission because they were discussing gender data and how to coordinate NGO-collected data. Over lunch at that meeting, I met a lady who lives in Mukuru (one of the informal settlements) and works with a Community Based Org [CBO] there. She totally understood my intro of “hyper-saturation of research” and responded that it is very true.
"We also have a lot of researchers coming to Mukuru to study us and they never come back to share with us their findings. Until we even stopped wanting to be part of their research. Nowadays we refuse to participate. They come with their iPads and technology devices and then by the time they are leaving they all get taken. [We all laugh]. … You find researchers come and they want us to accompany them to do their research but it is because they are scared of the slums and need us to be their protection. But they do not empower us to do the research work ourselves. They don’t help us to do the research ourselves. … They are always the ones coming with their agenda.”
I ask what she would want to know if she could shape the research agenda. What question would she want an answer to?
She would want to understand why they have to pay so much for their water and others don’t have to (they can just afford to spray water on their grass, etc.).
This interaction as well as some participant observation of the conduct of quant fieldwork was important to me for thinking about how just sharing (any) data is not enough. If the data collected continues to be for narrow project focused work (I.e. the questions are limiting rather than expansive), non-verbal cues are not captured, etc. etc. Then what really is the value of the data for communities (and also other researchers?)? If communities are interested in why water is low quality and more expensive in the informal settlements than in rich neighborhoods, who will do that research work for them and report back to them?
From the conversation, there is a sense that more "ethical" researchers should somehow feed their info back to the communities they collect it from (whether in the form of data that can be reused or even in reports, esp. if that info is relevant to what people want to know). E.g. People want to know if researchers find that there is only 1 public hospital serving the area instead of the 4 that the government says it has. Such information is important for them to know what to prioritize in the area.
I asked what is the best format for such “giving back” to go back to the community? Where should it be hosted? Is the Distict Commissioner or another local office a good place to go for it?
Response: Community radio can be a good forum. Chief and District elders would be open/interested in the research findings. They have the community needs usually in their interest (unless perhaps the research makes them look bad).
Nowadays, they [the CBO] doesn’t work with researchers unless there is more of an element of partnership and working together.