Planning and conducting participatory inquiries


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The next step is to plan and conduct short, focused participatory inquiries to explore the key themes and questions you have identified. These inquiries may be led by staff members and, where relevant, partners.

Your plans should include information on when and where the inquiries will be conducted, who will be responsible for leading the inquiry and what resources will be needed.  

Who will undertake the inquiries?

It is important to start by appointing an Inquiry Lead, who will have oversight for the PAL for Gender Mainstreaming process and will work closely with teams who are responsible for undertaking the work around the identified themes. 

Often the Inquiry lead will be someone who is already championing gender issues with an organisation. However the other team members do not need to be gender experts. The main requirement is that they are motivated to learn more about particular gender aspects of the work they are doing, to devote some time to doing so, and to communicate that learning to others.

Involving unusual stakeholders

Within the World Food Programme, PAL for Gender Mainstreaming teams have included members of human resources and logistics as well as programme staff. 

Where will the inquiry activities take place?

Inquiries may consist of desk-based research, where you are reviewing existing information such as data sets or organisational policies and approaches. It may also entail doing fieldwork. Depending on available time and resources you may wish to focus in depth on one geographical area or project where the questions have particular relevance. Or you may decide on a more comparative approach, focusing on two or three different field sites. 

Which groups or individuals will you work with to gather necessary information?

It is important to decide in advance whose experiences and perspectives should be reflected in your inquiries. Ideally you will conduct a mix of focus group discussions (FGDs) and individual interviews where you can gather the views of both men and women - and, when appropriate and relevant, girls and boys. To obtain a detailed understanding of the issues it is important to undertake interviews and FGDs with a range of stakeholders that may include staff working in different units or on different programmes, members of partner organisations, government officials, educators, community mobilisers and leaders, as well as beneficiaries.

Barriers to local food supplies

In Cambodia the PAL for Gender Mainstreaming team wanted to know more about the factors enabling or preventing women from becoming suppliers of local produce for schools involved in a ‘home grown school feeding’ (HGSF) programme.

They organised focus group discussions and interviews with a range of stakeholders engaged in HGSF in two schools, including existing male and female suppliers, school support committee members, teachers and the local commune chief. The discussions generated rich information that informed a detailed gender analysis of the situation. 

When will you conduct your inquiry?

Develop a timeline for the inquiry with dates for conducting fieldwork, doing analysis, synthesising the information and sharing it through knowledge products such as case studies, reports, presentations, etc. 

What methodologies will you use? 

There are no hard and fast rules about the methodologies you choose for an inquiry, but where possible they should generate rich qualitative information. Participatory tools can be particularly effective for facilitating dynamic discussions on complex, often sensitive issues around gender. Many participatory tools exist that can help to promote discussion in focus group settings, for example mapping exercises or use of participatory video. If you have more time you may decide to conduct surveys using semi-structured interviews. Examples of potential methodologies are provided in the right-hand links. 

What resources will you need? 

Participatory inquiries can be conducted in very cost-effective ways, especially if they are organised as an integral part of planned field visits or activities such as evaluations and training. The most important resource is dedicated time so that team members can benefit fully from the deep reflection enabled through field activities and analysis.