Document Text (Pages 91-100) Back to Document

Community Capacity and Governance – New Approaches to Development and Evaluation

by Banyai, Cindy Lyn, PhD

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Instituting evaluation in service agencies at all levels of governance will facilitate the
identification of weaknesses of policy and areas for reforms (Kaufmann et al., 2002, p. ix).
Evaluation is a mode through which policy and governance can be improved. It is a tool that can
assist economic development and poverty alleviation by improving the accountability, efficiency,
effectiveness, and impact of various policies, programs, and projects (Gobar, 1993, p. 18; Cling
et al., 2002b, p. 154). Monitoring and evaluation has to the potential to reduce corruption
(Kaufmann et al., 2002, p. ix) and improve the service of public servants to their constituents.

Furthermore, to ensure that evaluation reflects true situations, reaches those that are affected
by a policy, program, or project, or those that can affect necessary changes it is necessary to
involve stakeholders in the evaluation process (High & Nemes, 2007, p. 106; Kaufmann et al.,
2002, p. 21; Mohan & Sullivan, 2006, p. 13; Miyoshi & Stenning, 2008, p. 41). Meaningful
involvement of stakeholders helps significantly in ensuring accountability, effectiveness, and
transparency (Morita, 2009).

Involving stakeholders in evaluation in a meaningful way is the basis of truly participatory
activities. Evaluation does not have the same significance for or is interpreted in the same
fashion by all stakeholders (Miyoshi, 2008b, p. 13). The involvement of different stakeholders
in evaluation creates new understandings of situations through discussion and negotiation on
judgments of facts and values (High & Nemes, 2007, p. 106; Miyoshi, 2008b, p. 14). Although
participation in monitoring and evaluation is recognized as an important component in ensuring
the validity and appropriate implementation of a policy, program, or project, it is often the most
difficult to incorporate (Cling et al., 2002a, p. 12).

Evaluation is being developed and implemented in virtually all sectors and levels of
governance around the world (WB, 2002, p. 19). Systematic evaluation of policy, particularly in
terms of service delivery and poverty reduction, can have positive impacts on global
development and the MDGs (WB, 2003, p. 17). The benefits of evaluation can go beyond
improving governance and policymaking to include improving the human resources of people
and the communities in which they live if participation is appropriately incorporated (Gittel &
Vidal, 1998, p. 160; High & Nemes, 2007, p. 111).

Evaluation is important for policy making at all levels of governance. In fact, some feel
evaluation is so important that it is considered a public good and should be supported, even
financed by the international community (WB, 2003, p. 17).

Now that the importance of evaluation has been established, this work pursues the
improvement of evaluation. Chapter Six analyzes the weaknesses in evaluation, particularly in
developing countries, according to government officials and practitioners from developing
countries. From this analysis, some suggestions on ways that evaluation can be better
constructed are made. The case of Pagudpud looks more in-depth at the ways that these
suggestions can then be utilized in an assessment. Chapter Seven details a more traditional
approach to evaluation, while Chapter Eight looks at using non-traditional participatory
evaluation, which is a methodological contribution of this work.

3. Chapter Summary

This chapter provides an overview on governance and public administration. The practical
background behind governance and public administration is provided in order to connect the
prevailing concepts of development and community capacity presented in Chapter Two with
their real world circumstances and methods of application. Bridging the gap between theory and


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application is important to ensure that concepts truly have a space in real world discussions and
that they match the current situation with governance to reach the goals of human development
and poverty alleviation.

Governance was covered in the first section of this chapter. Governance is described as the
system through which authority is exercised and has grown to include governments at various
levels, service agencies, and private enterprises involved with public service delivery.
Democracy and participatory governance are currently the most popular forms of governance
and are practically implemented through local governance, decentralization, and localization.
Localized governance is important because it contributes to democracy through the development
of political, organizational and leadership capacity at the local level, thus increasing people’s
participation, as well as providing a check on higher levels of authority, thus increasing good

Many public administration reforms have been undertaken in the last few decades, most of
which move governance toward democratic participation and the global market. NPM is one
such contemporary public administration paradigm that seeks to see government run more
efficiently and effectively. However, this does not mean an end to overall public administration
reforms. There has been some criticism of NPM because it leads to problems such as an over
reliance on the market and a hollow state. Participative governance is another type of public
administration that should especially be considered by developing countries.

Along with the current state of public administration, there are some popular tools that can be
used to ensure good governance. Acknowledging and implementing a policy management cycle
that includes evaluation and links it and public feedback to the next policy planning phase will
increase the efficiency of public management and the effectiveness of policy. The logic
framework is an organizational tool that can be used to describe any portion of a policy structure
in its entirety, and provides common structure and vocabulary for public administration. Finally,
evaluation is increasingly becoming the most important and useful public administration tool for
the promotion of good governance.

Good governance is continually touted as the best way to achieve the various objectives of
human development and poverty alleviation. This chapter has provided the various theoretical
and practical methodologies behind good governance, which provide the basis for better policy
creation and management to meet the various goals associated with development. It also
provides the foundation for the analysis of governance and policy found later in this work on
some communities in rural Japan and the Filipino municipality of Pagudpud, as well as the
development of the corresponding evaluation tools. Chapter Four begins the journey on the case
study analysis of this work by detailing the general research approaches and paradigms that were
used in this study, as well as the methods used in data collection.


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4. Data Collection Methods

This chapter is dedicated to exploring the methodology employed during the research
for this work. It must first be noted that this work is multidisciplinary in nature,
referring to concepts, theories, and approaches from sociology, economics, political
sciences, and various other social sciences. Furthermore, the data that is used to
explore and expand the concepts found here comes from a variety of sources, employing various
different approaches and methods, which will be discussed in this chapter.

The follow research questions are posed to guide this chapter:
1. Which research paradigms and approaches are the most appropriate for studying about

community capacity and governance?
2. What is a case study and how was it employed in this work?
3. How is observation used in this study?
4. How can photography be used in research?
5. How and when can focus groups be used?
6. How can different interviewing techniques be used to gather data?
7. How can a survey be used to gather data?
8. What approaches, methods, and techniques were used for each data set of this research?
The paradigms and approaches that guided the research, post-positivism, post-modernism,
contextualism, reflexive and adaptive research, qualitative research and action research, will be
introduced first. The epistemology section will be followed by an in-depth description of the
various methods that were used to gather data for this work such as case studies, participant
observation, photography, focus groups, interviews, and surveys. This chapter will then
conclude with an overview of the specific methods used in the various areas of data collection,
rural Japanese communities, the evaluation training projects, and the municipalities in the

1. Epistemology

This work is approached using predominately a post-modernist, post-positivist, and
contextualist paradigm. The central tenets of post-modernism are: a) there are no adequate
means for representing external reality; b) reality is constructed by those interpreting it; c)
context is important – all knowable claims are intelligible and debatable only within their
context; d) reality is a linguistic convention; and e) all ethics are relative (Rhodes, 1997, pp. 183-

The post-modernist paradigm is being adopted because it begins to recognize the complexity
of the world and dissuades researchers and practitioners from creating or employing concepts
that are purportedly universal. Rhodes (1997) and Hickey and Mohan (2005) agree that taking a
post-modernist approach to public administration is the most appropriate at this time. However,
Hickey and Mohan go even further to suggest that ‘critical modernism’ should be employed over
post-modernism because as a public administration paradigm, it retains the concept of
development (p. 255). According to critical modernism, development is recognized as a
dialectical process not merely an act of mimicry or replication (Watts, 2003 as cited in Hickey &
Mohan, 2005, p. 255). This contention was also made in Chapter Two when the context in
which development takes place was emphasized.


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As a public administration paradigm, post-modernism supports democracy, emancipation,
progress, feminism, post-Marxism, and post-structuralism (Hickey & Mohan, 2005, p. 255). All
of these concepts are important to this research, so despite the strict definition of post-modernism
offered by scholars of public administration, post-modernism will be adopted as a research

The post-modernism paradigm is also relevant to the employment of participatory
methodologies because it recognizes that reality is being constructed by those who are describing
and living it and that this may be in stark contrast to the researchers or practitioner using the
participatory method (see Ladkin, 2007, p. 489). Post-modernism humbles the researcher and
the administrator and lays the foundation for respect of divergent opinions.

Post-positivism is consistent with post-modernism in that it holds firm the idea that reality is
constructed by those interpreting and describing it. Both researchers and participants can never
be free of bias, and research is never undertaken without an infusion of values by those involved
with the research (Small, 1995, p. 948). Post-positivism is being adopted here because of the
action-oriented and participatory nature of this work (Small, 1995, p. 949).

Contextualism is the philosophy that all things can only be understood in the situation in
which they were created (see Peters, 2005, p. 16). Contextualism is being adopted here because
it places an emphasis on context and locality, which has already been described as important to
development and policy making in Chapter Two. Additionally, contextualism is related to postmodernism
in that it interprets all ethics, actions, and understandings to be relevant to their
context, which is similarly outlined by post-modernist thought.

In addition to the paradigms that are being adopted going into this research, a reflexive and
adaptive approach is also being taken. Reflexivity in research involves reflecting upon, critically
examining, and exploring the nature of the research process by all participants of the research
(Small, 1995, p. 947). A reflexive approach requires the researcher to continually evaluate the
research process and to take different directions, if necessary, to reach the goals of the research
as defined by all participants. Having reflexivity lends itself to a loose research design due to the
necessity of dynamic change depending on the varying circumstances and reflections of the

Adaptive research employs the concept of reflexivity, but expands upon the concept of
having a loose research design. Adaptive research respectfully engages those involved with
varying levels of participation and offers a willingness to alter methodological strategies both in
terms of theory advancement and participant benefit (Mendis-Millard & Reed, 2007, p. 544; see
also Lennie, 2006, p. 368). Adaptive research allows the researcher to learn from the research
participants through all stages of the research process (Mendis-Millard & Reed, 2007, p. 547)
because there is no constriction due to a rigid research design. Taking this approach encourages
more participants to become involved in the research because of the flexibility and consideration
taken on their behalf (Mendis-Millard & Reed, 2007, p. 549). Flexibility and receptiveness to
participant needs and desires helps to establish trust and respect between the researcher and the
participants, which supports both research and community objectives (Mendis-Millard & Reed,
2007, p. 549). Reflexive and adaptive research requires control to be relinquished in order to
obtain results and adhere to community principles. These are key aspects to achieving human
development and building community capacity, which is why this approach is being adopted in
this work.

This work also takes a general ethnographic approach. This means that people are studied in
their everyday context, data is gathered from many sources, there is an unstructured approach to


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the research (as described earlier), there is a focus on one group or locale, and the analysis of the
data stresses the interpretation of the meanings of human action (Rhodes, 1997, p. 193).
Ethnography focuses on people and their relationships and attempts to analyze people naturally
in their contexts, which is important for this work.

1.1. Qualitative Research

The overarching approach that is being taken in this work is that of qualitative research.
Qualitative research is very good at creating a narrative of a certain time and place and gathering
a significant amount of detail. This is because qualitative research studies people and events in
their own context (Weiss, 1998, p. 252).

Numbers cannot tell the whole story; it is also necessary that the stories and ideas of people
be captured, conveyed, and even harnessed for decision-making purposes. This descriptionoriented
and narrative data that describes the experiences and perceptions of people (Patton,
2002, pp. 4-5) is the very essence of qualitative research.

Qualitative research is flexible, able to cope with vague terminology and concepts (Lincoln
& Denzin, 2007, p. 2), with an open and flexible design (Patton, 2002, p. 255; Seale et al., 2007,
p.9) that can adapt to dynamic circumstances, such as working with groups of people. The
flexible nature of qualitative research allows for exploration using ordinary language that is
accessible to any audience, an important part of action research, as well as non-traditional
mediums of expression including photography and video (Lincoln & Denzin 2003, p. 4).

Qualitative research should follow these general guidelines:
1. the aim and purpose should be explained and set in the context in which it arose;
2. the rationale for the design of the enquiry should be explained;
3. the researcher should demonstrate openness to emergent issues;
4. the researcher should seek to be transparent and reflexive about conduct, theoretical

perspective and values;
5. the study should provide for an understanding of context;
6. the study should represent data or evidence faithfully;
7. a qualitative research study is likely to convey depth, diversity, subtlety and complexity;
8. data or evidence should be actively and critically interrogated;
9. claims should be supported by evidence;
10. some, but not all, studies may be judged according to their utility or relevance for

particular groups of people and particular power relations;
11. some, but not all, studies may be judged according to whether they provide understanding

of subjective meanings; and
12. the study should provide new insights (Seale et al., 2007, pp. 9-10).
Through these guidelines, it can be seen that qualitative research is consistent with a
reflexive and adaptive approach to research. The guidelines also provide some indication to the
types of data that qualitative research will render.

Seale and colleagues (2007) also offer specific guidelines for qualitative research:
1. the relationship of the study to existing knowledge should be explained;
2. the rationale for a qualitative rather than quantitative study should be understood;
3. a rationale for sampling should be present and the implications of different approaches to

this, and of failures to gain access to certain sources understood;


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4. negotiations to gain access to sources of evidence and the implications of these for the

evidence gathered should be described and assessed;
5. the particular contribution made by different methods for collecting and recording

evidence should be understood, and the rationale for the methods chosen be given in the
light of this choice;

6. the rationale for the choice of analytic strategy should be clear, with awareness of the

potential of other analytic strategies;
7. attention should be paid to negative or deviant cases and to alternative explanations;
8. there should be comprehensive, rather than selective, examination of data/evidence;
9. there should be a clear separation between evidence and interpretation of evidence;
10. the language of final reports should be accessible and clear to the intended audiences; and
11. the implications of the investigation for broader areas of knowledge and practice should

be explored and be of significance (pp. 9-10).

These specific guidelines describe what should be done and taken into consideration during
qualitative research. The relationship between these guidelines and specific areas of the research
that was conducted here will be addressed in the chapter overview.

Qualitative contributions to research and evaluation are far too often seen as auxiliary to
‘real’ quantitative data. This misconception leads to a devaluation of the important contribution
that qualitative data can make in research, evaluations and policy-making. Qualitative studies
can be just as rigorous as quantitative designs with appropriate design and diligent
implementation (Flyvbjerg, 2007, p. 398; Seale, Gobo, Gubrium, & Silverman, 2007, p. 3;
Patton, 2002, p.14). Qualitative date can be validated and authentic because it is rooted in the
fairness of open discussion (Weiss, 1998, p. 262), particularly when it is paired with
participatory methods. Qualitative methods are often seen as less rigorous than quantitative
methods, but the different rigor required for qualitative studies should not be disqualified
(Flyvbjerg, 2007, p. 398). Qualitative research is best used when rich, contextual data is sought,
as it is here.

1.2. Action Research

Action research is another approach that is being taken in this work. First discussed by Kurt
Lewin in 1946 as a way for research to be more meaningful to its subjects (see also Borda, 2006,
p. 29), action research is also a methodology used as an alternative to traditional research
methods that are riddled with power issues (Small, 1995, pp. 943-944). Action research has only
been sporadically used as a research method or intervention due to its often political nature
(Small, 1995, p. 944), non-descript design and implementation, and basis in qualitative
methodology, which also has difficulty gaining credence in the academic world.

Action research is also consistent with one of the main impetuses behind this work overall,
which is to marry theory with practice. In action research, theories (or concepts) must be
expressed, but also the results of the research must feed directly back to the theory (Gustavesen,
2006, p. 17; Kirk & Shutte, 2004, p. 244). The literature review chapters were constructed
following this logic. Chapter Two was a discourse on theory and concepts, while Chapter Three
was a discourse on practice, and the remaining chapters will serve as a mediating discourse on
how to link them (see Gustavsen, 2006, p. 18).

Pinpointing a specific definition of action research is difficult, but it is comprised of these
main concepts:


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1. approaches problems that require action and is based on generally vague research

questions (Small, 1995, p. 948);
2. focuses on research as a process, specific to a task, time, and situation; changing under

the will of the participants (Patton, 2002, p. 221; Friedman, 2006, p. 134; Ladkin, 2006,
p. 482; Small, 1995, p. 942);

3. focuses on a single case (group, organization, community) because of specificity (Patton,

2002, p. 179; Small, 1995, p. 942);
4. has a relationship between theory and practice (Gustavsen, 2006, p. 18; Friedman, 2006,

p. 134; Small, 1995, p. 942; Heron & Reason, 2006, p. 144; Zacharakis & Flora, 2005, p.

5. acknowledges that people affected by a certain phenomena or situation have credible and
valuable knowledge (Small, 1995, p. 945; Heron & Reason, 2006, p. 144) and can
contribute to the decision-making process (Park, 2006, p. 84);

6. acknowledges that research with people should be democratic and participative (Ladkin,

2007, p. 478) in collaboration with them (Heron & Reason, 2006, p. 144);
7. acknowledges that research with people should be relevant and useful to them (Small,

1995, p. 941; Ladkin, 2007, p.481; Gaventa & Cornwall, 2006, p. 76);
8. promotes learning and knowledge sharing (Friedman, 2006, p. 132; Patton, 2002, p. 179);

9. has the epistemological approaches of experiential and presentational knowledge

(Ladkin, 2007, p. 480) and post-positivism (Small, 1995, p. 942; Ladkin, 2007, p. 480).

These concepts outline action research as a method of interaction with the targets of research
that provide mutual benefit to research participants and researchers, while practically applying
theories, concepts, or methods in the pursuit of the goal for which the research is being
convened. The actual outcomes of action research depend on the specific case under which they
are developed and are a direct result of the decisions of the participants.

Action research works in cycles of action and reflection (Ladkin, 2007, p. 482; Heron &
Reason, 2006, p. 145), with the main actors the group participants and the researcher acting as a
facilitator (Patton, 2002, p. 185; Small, 1995, p. 944; Heron & Reason, 2006, p. 151),
encouraging participants to discuss the situations and events around them, paying particular
attention to contradictions and gaps (Friedmann, 2006, p. 135; Small, 1995, p. 946) to stimulate
dialogue and route out issues.

Participatory action research (PAR) is a sub-unit of action research incorporating principles
of participatory research and action research. Participatory research involves active research on
the part of those who are being studied or assisted (Koggel, 2008, p. 119). PAR works similarly
to action research, through cycles of action and reflection to produce useful knowledge and
action through research, learning, or socio-political action (Bodorkos & Pataki, 2009, p. 1124;
see also Small, 1995, p. 943).

The report on poverty commissioned by United States Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan not
only demonstrated the importance of evaluation to improve policy, but also that action research
has relevance in the improvement of conditions in poor communities (Borda, 2006, p. 29). PAR
empowers people through construction and utilization of their own knowledge and promotes a
better understanding of local strengths and issues through dialogue (Bodorkos & Pataki, 2009, p.
1124). Not only is local knowledge constructed and used, but it is disseminated through the
community, which is one of the most important contributions of PAR to empowerment (Gaventa
& Cornwall, 2006, p. 76; Lennie, 2006, p. 360). This allows PAR to help facilitate personal and


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community change (Lykes, 2006, p. 276; Park, 2006, p. 83) and ultimately community capacity

An important addendum to action research made by PAR is that local participants should be
respected on the same level as the academic or practitioner initiating the research (Bodorkos &
Pataki, 2009, p. 1130). PAR advocates for a truly collaborative approach to the research inquiry.
For the purpose of this work, participatory methods were always incorporated into action
research activities, therefore gaining the advantages of PAR as well.

Collaborative (or cooperative) inquiry is another component of action research.
Collaborative inquiry helps people make sense of their world and come up with and act upon
ways to improve it (Heron & Reason, 2006, p. 144). Participatory research is similar to
collaborative inquiry in that they are both concerned with full and equal partnerships in research
(Koggel, 2008, p. 120). Research where only the researcher gains is exploitative, the ‘subjects’
of the research have a right to benefit from the process as well (Small, 1995, p. 950).

Collaborative inquiry reinforces the idea that good research is done with people, not on
people (Heron & Reason, 2006, p. 144), and supports the notion that local people have valuable
knowledge and skills that should be respected (Olowu, 1989, p. 221; Park, 2006, p. 84; Small,
1995, pp. 942-943). However, it should be recognized that local knowledge is often latent and
unorganized, which is why it is so often disregarded (Olowu, 1989, p. 222). One of the basic
functions of collaborative inquiry is to assist with the organization and expression of this
disjointed local knowledge.

With collaborative research all participants are involved with the design and the management
of the inquiry, thereby allowing everyone to experience what is being explored and allowing
them to make sense and draw conclusions on the inquiry, as well as influence the process (Heron
& Reason, 2006, p. 144). Phases of collaborative inquiry are as follows:

1. a group of researchers come together to explore an agreed area of human activity, agree
on the focus of their inquiry, develop a set of questions to investigate, and plan a method
for exploring the idea;

2. the group engages in the agreed actions, observe and record the process and outcomes of

their own and each others' action and experience;
3. participants become fully immersed in and engaged with their action and experience;
4. participants re-assemble to share - in both presentational and propositional forms - their

practical and experiential data, and to consider their original ideas in the light of it (Heron
& Reason, 2006, pp. 14-16).

Upon completion of these phases of inquiry, participants may further develop or reframe the
ideas or even reject them altogether and pose new questions, which results in a necessity to cycle
through the phases until participants have reached their desired outcomes (Heron & Reason,
2006, p. 16; Ladkin, 2007, p. 483).

One drawback of action research is that it is time-consuming (Bodorkos & Pataki, 2009, p.
1130) and unpredictable, which can become problematic for researchers. This is sometimes due
to the fact that there needs to be time for relationship building between the researcher and the
community in order to gain access and successfully coordinate participatory research (Pavey et
al., 2007, p. 90). However, participating in an action research project is enlightening and
beneficial, leading to copious amounts of data and life changing experiences for all involved.

2. Data Gathering Techniques


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The first section of this chapter outlines the epistemological approach taken in this work and
the prevailing approaches to this research, qualitative and action research. This section goes into
the specific techniques that were used to gather data for this work. Reasoning for use and
methodology are presented for data gathering techniques such as case studies, observation,
photography, focus groups, interviews, and surveys. Although it is not covered in depth in this
section, it should be noted that references to secondary sources such as books, journal articles,
magazines, newspapers, and conference and training presentations have been made throughout
the work to support various claims, particularly in Chapter Two and Chapter Three for the
literature reviews.

2.1. Case Studies

A case study can be defined as “an empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary
phenomenon within its real-life context (Yin, 2003, p. 13).” Cases have a tendency to be
“situationally grounded instance(s)” that “imply a family” of relationships and circumstances
(Becker & Ragin, 1992, p. 121).

Case studies can be valid and reliable as a methodology (Flyvbjerg, 2007, p. 391; Yin, 2003,
pp. 36-39). Like with other research techniques, the validity and reliability of a case study
depend on the quality of the research design and its rigorous implementation.

Cases can be selected randomly or purposefully. Information-oriented case selection is
employed to maximize the utility of information from small samples and single cases (Flyvbjerg,
2007, p. 396). The cases are selected on the basis of the information they are expected to render.
There are four basic kinds of information selection cases:

1. extreme/deviant cases - to obtain information on unusual cases;
2. maximum variation cases - to obtain information about the significance of various

circumstances for case process and outcome;
3. critical cases - to achieve information that permits logical deductions of the type, "if this

is not valid for this case, then it applies to all (no) cases.'; and
4. paradigmatic cases - to develop a metaphor or establish a school for the domain that the

case concerns (Flyvbjerg, 2007, p. 396).
The cases in this study were chosen on the basis of information selection.
It should be noted that case studies are not generalizeable (Flyvbjerg, 2007, p. 391), but
rather are designed to generate specific knowledge about a specific place and time. This means
that case studies are best for generating hypotheses (Flyvbjerg, 2007, p. 391) and context rich
data for intellectual exploration.

Though case studies can be somewhat limited in focus, they can provide for a fuller
understanding of a concept, particularly when a concept is heavily influenced by its context (Yin,
2003, p. 13). This is because a case study is a way of organizing data to keep focus on the
totality (Weiss, 1998, p. 261). Case studies demonstrate causal arguments about how general
social forces take shape and produce results in a specific setting (Ragin, 2000, p. 122). It is a
holistic way to approach research considering the interrelationships between people, institutions,
and events (Weiss, 1998, p. 261). Since it can be clearly noted that cultural context, as well as
specific situations play a large role in human development and poverty alleviation, it is
worthwhile to examine a specific case to consider the specific aspects that can affect them.


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2.2. Observation

Observation is a common technique in research that is easily employed and unfortunately
heavily biased (Kumar, 1987, p. 22), but still otherwise useful to build a detailed narrative.
Various types of observation were used in this work including direct observation and participant
observation. Direct observation is the researcher simply describing the things she/he witnesses
and is useful because it allows the researcher to study phenomena in their natural setting and may
reveal things that informants are unable or unwilling to describe (Kumar, 1987, p. 21).

Participant observation is observation by a researcher who takes part in the activities and
events she/he is describing (Weiss, 1998, p. 257). Participant observation can be used in concert
with collaborative inquiry and any other type of research that requires high levels of involvement
by the researcher. The technique has been used notably by Richard Fenno Jr. (2003) and
Douglas Harper (2001). It should be noted that observations can be useful data, but that they
must be labeled as observations to avoid confusion (Wolcott, 1990, p. 19). For this work, both
direct observation and participant observation were used abundantly in all case studies.

2.3. Photography

Action research requires innovation on the part of the facilitator to be able to reach and
include their intended target groups and uncover situations and issues (Park, 2006, p. 84), in
addition to being able to collect relevant and useful data. Due to this, and the constantly
changing needs of the group, it is necessary to develop and utilize new, unique and eclectic
techniques, instruments and methods (Small, 1995, p. 943). With this in mind, the use of
photography in research is considered.

Although not widespread as of yet, the use of photography as a tool for evaluation
(Rietbergen-McCracken & Narayan, 1998, p. 212), for qualitative data gathering (Bleiker &
Kay, 2007; Harper, 2001; Pink, 2007, p. 365) and for empowering disadvantaged groups (Bleiker
& Kay, 2007, p. 156; Lykes, 2006) or sparking social change (Bleiker & Kay, 2007, p. 141) have
been discussed in various realms.

The use of photography helps to tell the story of a certain group of people or place or event
(Bleiker & Kay 2007; Harper 2001; Lykes 2006). This is useful to describe a certain situation or
the effects of a policy, program or project, as well as to empower those involved by giving them
a medium through which their voice can be heard, even without the use of sophisticated
language, which may ordinarily inhibit disenfranchised groups.

Photos or a group project involving photography by the participants can open up a dialogue
and promote reflection and change (Bleiker & Kay, 2007, p. 151; Lykes, 2006, p. 275). When
photographs are used to start dialogue it is known as photo elicitation (Harper, 2001, p. 16). The
dialogue can take the form of a personal interview, a focus group, or a public exhibition, as long
as the photograph and conversation about its meaning to the people and the community are given

Photography is an alternative form of data gathering that parallels the concepts of
localization and participatory methodologies (see Bleiker & Kay, 2007, p. 152). Documentary
photography, whether taken by researchers or internal participants, are a sort of visual
ethnography (Harper, 2001, p. 15), which is another approach taken in this work.


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