METHODOLOGY of the Tanzania Participatory Poverty Assessment Process



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1.     Introduction

The 2002/3 PPA methodology was developed through a process involving members of the Implementing Consortium (IC) and other specialists (see: Design Group TOR and Workshop Minutes).  Working together over a two-day period, Design Group members established an initial framework further fleshed out by researchers during their two-week Training Programme (see: 2002/3 PPA Methodology: A Field Guide) and the subsequent Planning Workshop (see: 2002/3 PPA Procedures Manual).  A number of methods, designed specifically to explore aspects of "vulnerability," are detailed below.

2.     Foundations

Many aspects of the PPA’s methodology – including its core beliefs, principles and methods – are typical of participatory research, in general, and previous PPAs conducted in Tanzania (i.e. the 1994/5 Countrywide PPA and the 1997/8 Shinyanga Region PPA).  Thus, the methodology is founded upon:

3.     Significant Differences

Nonetheless, the 2002/3 PPA’s methodology is less than typical in:

  1. The number and nature of steps taken to ensure that a wide variety of people are aware of, encouraged and supported to participate in the research process 

  2. Its focus on people’s “successes” and “strengths” rather than “problems” and “weaknesses” 

  3. The way it weaves research and advocacy work together rather than treating them as temporally discreet steps

These innovative directions are elaborated upon below.

3.1     Ensuring Diversity

Participatory Policy Research (PPR) and participatory planning processes (exemplified by PRA and PLA) are very different.  Though they are practical expressions of the same beliefs and values, their respective roles in poverty alleviation imply distinct methodological necessities and forms.  For example, the goal of PRA/PLA is to generate effective, locally owned action plans.  As a result, the methodology places a lot of emphasis on Village Assembly-sized meetings in which a critical degree of consensus is fashioned around a specific plan of action.  In the process of pursuing this worthwhile goal, marginal perspectives and agendas for change are frequently left behind.

PPR does not need to develop “community consensus.”  In order to fulfil its mandate and contribute to well-informed, effective policies at various levels of Government, PPR must learn about the range of conditions people face as well as their concerns, competing priorities, success stories, etc.  Instead of determining a single course of action, PPR can – on the basis of such rich information – recommend hundreds.  This is an ideal outcome that would significantly undermine the likelihood of PRA or PLA exercises leading anywhere at all.

The 2002/3 PPA has taken the following steps to learn about the breadth of people’s circumstances, experiences and lessons learnt:

3.1.1  Diversity at the Community Level

Research sites were specifically selected to illustrate inter-community diversity in terms, for example, of:

Selection criteria and their weighting were determined through a participatory process involving a wide variety of stakeholders from Government, Civil Society and other development partners (see: TOR for the Stakeholders’ Site Selection Workshop. The geographic dispersal of sites is illustrated in: 2002 Sites).

3.1.2  Diversity at Household and Individual Levels

The legitimacy of Participatory Policy Research depends on capturing the diversity that exists within, as well as between communities. Thus, the two-week long PPA Training Programme examined and repeatedly emphasised the necessity of engaging different “categories of vulnerable people” in the research process. 

A sequence of activities has been developed to identify locally relevant “categories of vulnerable people” (a.k.a. social groups) and systematically involve them in the PPA  Decisions and practical measures taken to facilitate this engagement include: 

3.2     Positive Inquiry

During the PPA Training Programme, researchers discussed the pros and cons of various approaches to participatory research and concluded that they needed to make something new…  something that met their needs, answered their concerns and belonged to them.  This discussion is ongoing.  Nonetheless, key elements of their methodology-in-the-making have been agreed upon.  For example, researchers believe they must: 

Each of these elements reflects real world experiences and lessons learnt (oftentimes, painfully).  As such, the IC’s decision to structure a methodology around them is reasonable but full of formidable challenges.  Perhaps chief amongst these is the possibility that Research Teams will not shift from the “problems-based approach” that characterises most participatory planning processes to a style of “positive inquiry” better suited to policy purposes.   

3.3     Interweaving Research and Advocacy Processes

An observable shift in thinking about the relationship between PPR and advocacy is currently taking place.   “Advocacy,” for example, was not included in the design of first generation PPAs.  In contrast, advocacy activities have been written into the log-frame of more recent PPAs, such as the 2000/1 Uganda PPA Process (UPPAP).

If we were to assess past PPAs on the basis of their policy impact, the UPPAP model would clearly be a step in the right direction.  Nonetheless, there is room for improvement.  UPPAP’s advocacy activities began only after research and writing-up had ended.  Indeed, each of these was conceived of as discreet, sequential step in the PPA process.

The 2002/3 Tanzania PPA is different.  Upon the recommendation of Design Group members, it is incorporating compatible advocacy activities in, and creating advocacy tools through, the research process itself.  This forward-thinking approach includes: 

4.     Special Methods

Click on the following links to review methods designed for use by our Research Teams: 

Method 1: Introducing the Research Theme & Exploring Basic Concepts
Method 2: Vulnerability Matrix
Method 3: Learning about "Impoverishing Shocks/Crises"
Method 4: Learning about "Slow Impoverishing Forces"
Method 5: Learning about "Access to Cash for Coping with Crises"
Method 6: Learning about "Children's Perceptions of Life-skills"
Method 7:  Picturing "Resilience" and "Vulnerability"
Method 8: Testimonies