For the chronically poor, poverty is not simply about having low income: it is about multiple deprivations – hunger, malnutrition, dirty drinking water, lack of education, having no access to health services, social isolation and exploitation. The chronically poor experience this deprivation over many years, often over their entire lives, and usually pass the poverty on to their children.
Obwaavu obumu buba buzaale.Abaana babuyonka ku bazadde baabwe, ate nabo nebabugabira ku baana.
(Some poverty passes from one generation to another as if the offspring sucks it from the mother’s breast.) Source: group of disabled Ugandan women.
What is chronic poverty?
Chronic poverty is not just a concept developed by researchers or policy-makers. As the quote above suggests, people in poor communities have many ways of distinguishing between different types of poverty.
This ‘other half’ of the poor are the least likely to benefit from contemporary national and international development efforts. If chronic poverty is to be addressed, specially targeted policies need to be designed and policymakers convinced to implement them.
High quality research is vital in order to influence policy-makers and qualitative work clearly has much to offer, but if it is to be taken as seriously as quantitative data, rigorous data collection and analysis are essential. It is here that NVivo can be of service to chronic poverty research.
Who are the CPRC?
The Chronic Poverty Research Centre (CPRC) is an international partnership of universities, research institutes and non government organizations funded by the UK’s Department for International Development.
As an independent research centre, the CPRC aims to create knowledge that contributes to both the speed and quality of poverty reduction, with a focus on assisting those who are trapped in poverty, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
The CPRC is committed to understanding poverty as a dynamic phenomenon – exploring changes over time and developing an enhanced understanding of the reasons for change. In this quest, the CPRC is very interested in combining qualitative and quantitative research methods. It is through this innovative approach that the CPRC believes that possible escape routes from chronic poverty will be revealed and a greater understanding gained of the strategies that are employed by chronically poor people themselves to escape poverty.
To date the CPRC has supported a significant volume of work on panel data and quantitative analysis, but less on qualitative work. To move forward the CPRC needed to build its capacity to undertake and analyze qualitative research.
First steps in using NVivo
As a first step, a training workshop was held in Toubab Dialao, Senegal, in December 2006 for partners of the Chronic Poverty Research Centre. The workshop focused on the use of life histories. It was organized by IED Afrique in Dakar for the CPRC and brought together poverty researchers from 11 countries
(Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, India, Nepal, Niger, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda and the UK).
NVivo 7 was introduced to all 40 participants, and of these, 25 elected to learn the software in greater depth in a two day session. This session was led by Didier Dupont, University of Montreal, Canada and Peter Davis, Bath
University, UK and was conducted in both French and English.
On the first day, everything was done to minimize the time between the initial presentation of the software and getting the participants to use it themselves. This meant that they were quickly reassured of the userfriendliness of NVivo. Although some were quite nervous to start with, their fears were quickly allayed. The steps necessary for creating a project (creation of documents, importing life histories, classification and coding of material, creating annotations, memos, etc.) were covered first and, by the end of the first day, everyone was keen to learn more about how to use NVivo.
The CPRC is particularly interested in using NVivo to foster international collaboration and also to combine the use of both quantitative and qualitative data. This made it necessary to highlight some particular aspects of NVivo 7.
- The scope for team work was important. Researchers from different countries will be working together on a comparative project. They will need to share some of their data, the life histories they have collected, their hypotheses and their analysis, and to move forward together using a shared theoretical framework. In particular it was important to learn how to merge projects, both data and conceptual categories. In this way all can benefit from the data and analyses of their colleagues who are working elsewhere, whilst preserving the integrity of their project, according to their preferences and as applicable to their particular context.
- In this multi-team environment, it is particularly useful to be able to compare the coding produced by two researchers on the same interviews.
- Because of the desire to triangulate qualitative and quantitative data, it was important to emphasize the advantages of using attributes. Using attributes will enable questions such as: ‘How does a respondent from a region with a particular economic profile perceive their poverty?’ That is, we not only know what type of region they come from, but also their view on poverty. The typology of regions would be devised using the results of quantitative surveys.
- Above all, it was important that the participants grasped the importance of matrices in NVivo 7. There was a jubilant exclamation (Wow!) when the results of a matrix were seen for the first time. Immediately, everyone could see the importance of classifying and coding the material, and appreciated the power of the tool, and the possibilities in analyzing their research which were now open to them. It is here then that hypotheses can emerge or be validated.
The success of this workshop was due not only to the excellent logistical arrangements made by IED Afrique (under the direction of Bara Guèye), but because of the way in which the theoretical background of working with life histories was covered in advance of using the software. In addition, the enthusiasm and patience of the participants made this both a productive and very humorous workshop.
Because the CPRC partners could all come together and in the future share their NVivo projects, they knew that they would not be isolated in the forthcoming challenging work, and also that they would not lose control of their research. NVivo would allow them to remain its master, not constrict them, but make deeper analysis possible. They understood that this data-processing tool would respect their data, and enable them to use it even more effectively.
“The workshop was an excellent forum for researchers from different countries and research backgrounds to discuss opportunities for enhancing the speed and quality of oral testimony analysis in order to influence both national and global policies in tackling the chronic poverty phenomenon.” Peter Wasamba, University of Nairobi, Kenya
NVivo is already very much in use by the CPRC. A large study is underway in rural Bangladesh, where 280 life histories have been collected and are currently being analyzed. This qualitative element of the project is not simply a follow-on or supplement to quantitative surveys and analysis, but has been fully integrated and sequenced to enable a more holistic understanding of chronic poverty and its dynamics.
The next step is to use this experience and undertake similar qualitative-quantitative studies in other countries. An ambitious project is currently being designed in which a combination of methods will be used to compare countries, particularly in terms of past and possible future patterns of upward mobility out of poverty. In 2007, two pilot projects are planned in Kenya and India, with further studies likely in Senegal, Burkina Faso, Tanzania, Mozambique, Nepal and Uganda.
So, yes, NVivo is highly relevant to chronic poverty research.