If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.
— Nelson Mandela
In the research and evaluation space, practitioners are need to adapt to the local context in which projects take place. But what does this really mean, and why is it important?
Creative Consulting & Development Works recently held a training workshop in preparation for fieldwork that will be conducted in a remote area in rural KwaZulu Natal over the coming months. During this workshop we asked fieldworkers, who are students at the University of KwaZulu Natal, why they believed it was important for data collection to be done by local people.
On a fundamental level, fieldworkers felt that having local knowledge would enable them to better understand the culture, language and customs of study participants, making it easier for them to relate to each other. Local awareness of cultural barriers or challenges could also spot any possible problems in the research approach, and help modify it to better suit the local context.
Research and evaluation studies utilising local fieldworkers may also facilitate increased community participation and engagement in the project. This way, community participants may feel more comfortable and be open to sharing more of their feelings, ideas and experiences. This would provide a greater number of opportunities for dialogue and knowledge exchange between participants and fieldworkers.
Increasingly, it would seem that the relationship of fieldworkers to the community is as important to data quality as their previous research experience and qualifications.
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