CACE: Learning How to Ask Clear Questions

CACE: Learning How to Ask Clear Questions

Center for Amazon Community Ecology (CACE) is a recipient of our 2015 Feedback Fund. Recently they shared these insights with us.

We promote conservation and sustainable livelihoods by building stronger communities in the Peruvian Amazon. The Fund allowed us to ask local artisans we work with about their economic realities and dreams. Along the way, we learned how to ask these questions better, with these insights:

Phrase questions around peoples’ normal frame of reference

We initially thought that since most people do not keep any records about their earnings or expenses, we would get the most accurate responses by asking people to provide monthly “averages” for certain sources of income or types of things they paid for. In practice, artisans had the best recall when asked about the previous six months of economic activity combined.

QUESTION: What things would you like to buy?

Our imprecise phrasing of this question greatly slanted its perceived meaning. We expected that many families would say that a key long-term goal would be to provide a better education for their children. A few did express this, but this response may have been so low because our question unintentionally seemed to ask them to mention concrete objects they could buy like a TV or chain saw rather than services they might need to pay for like school tuition. We corrected these issues before carrying out a second round of interviews.

Time and money not adding up.

While artisan surveys provided thoughtful and insightful answers about their goals, the amounts of time, material and money they thought they would need to achieve these goals, these often seemed based on imprecise and unrealistic estimates and faulty basic math. The message to us is clear. Artisans need to continue mastering their craft, but we also need to help them better understand the numbers — how many trees, processing fibers, and crafts they need to meet their goals. We need to teach the how to derive and work with these numbers on their own, if we truly want to empower them to improve their lives and safeguard the forests.

Author: Campbell Plowden, Executive Director, CACE

This is an example of a GlobalGiving organizations that Listens, Acts, and Learns.

Marc

Marc Maxmeister is part of GlobalGiving's impact team.

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