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Sampling theory and RAP

Joseph Valadez, Harvard Institute for International Development:

Sampling theory is not unimportant to RAP. While random sampling is generally not used, there is a strong need for anthropologists and other RAP users to consider some of the issues of sampling theory. An understanding of sampling theory would help them to determine what part of the population they will interview and whose knowledge and opinions they want their appraisal to reflect. RAP should avoid a simple use of convenience sampling. Purposeful selection with criteria should be used for selecting interviewees, etc. and the criteria should be explained in the methodology discussion of their reporting.

Jacques A. Bernard, UNICEF, Dakar:

It would be useful to know the criteria on which random sampling methods are rejected in favour of RAP in the 16 country nutrition study.

Susan Scrimshaw, School of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles:

Random sampling and survey methods were normally chosen in those situations where there was a basic infrastructure of information on a community. This would include such things as maps, demographic data, house numbering, birth and death registration, etc. However, areas with problems of nutrition are frequently the same types of areas that are missing this type of information base. When faced with a situation where it would take six weeks to set up a reasonable sample, it was decided that it would be more useful to spend that period in the community using RAP to speak with and gather information from families and groups.

Joseph Valadez, Harvard Institute of International Development:

One of the limitations of survey research is that the list of variables investigated is based on the previous knowledge and assumptions of the researcher. Potential knowledge gained is predefined by this list. RAP has a stronger potential to allow the community to identify additional variables, lessening the tendency for the method to be constrained by its own assumptions. With RAP, one can generally find new variables.

Susan Scrimshaw, School of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles:

The checklists which are discussed in the RAP handbook should not be seen as restrictive. These checklists should be variable and should shrink and grow depending on the situations, both before and during fieldwork.

David Fitch, INCAP, Guatemala:

INCAP has developed a sampling procedure that relies on a portable computer to do random selection during a walk through of the village.

RAP's expanding uses and dimensions

Samir Basta, former head of Evaluation Office, UNICEF:

RAP is being used to assess whether Growth Monitoring is working. There have been studies done in eight countries and will be used as the basis for a policy discussion.

Dr. Carlos Daza, PAHO:

We should be looking for ways to extend or expand the use of RAP to work more efficiently and effectively with people at the grass roots. How can we use it to make assessments of health situations and to promote community involvement and participation in health?

Robert Chambers, Administrative Staff College of India:

Many of us have been brainwashed by our professional training, education and activities into thinking we are the only people who can count. We have tended to conclude that rural people are experts on their culture, beliefs and subjective experiences but are not good at counting or estimating. This tends to obscure what anthropologists have known on and off, that rural people, both literate and illiterate, have a good capacity to count, to estimate, to recall quantities, to estimate trends to rank and to score. However, there are important preconditions to strong data gathering in this area. First is the critical need for an ability to establish rapport. Without this, the value of participatory quantification work is very limited. Second, if you wish to have rural people quantify and estimate, you must develop a locally appropriate and relevant set of physical materials, such as seeds for counting, sticks broken into various lengths, stones for different seasons, which people can quantify against. This area of participatory quantification is a frontier and extremely interesting.

Jacob Matthai, UNICEF Representative, Oman:

The RAP studies in Oman were not done to develop statistical information. It was to help transmit the attitudes and behaviours of the community to various programme and decision making groups. We often find that plain statistics do not influence governments positively; people are tired of being shown what is wrong. The reasons why something is wrong are very important. RAP also has a variety of applications and in telling us why people are behaving in certain ways, it provides an excellent lubricant for social mobilization. It has been extremely useful in the Oman UNICEF programme.

How rapid is RAP?

Susan Scrimshaw, School of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles:

The question of "why RAP" is a very important one. In many ways RAP isn't rapid at all, because there are often years of training and work in the community by the investigators so they can then do RAP. When it is said that you need to take people experienced in the culture and method in doing your studies, we really mean it. When people have a long experience in the community and have experience in RAP, they can go in and do these studies more quickly. Existing ethnographic studies and epidemiological experience also help. Also the more you RAP the faster you RAP. As you do these projects you learn where you can go faster.

Shubhada Kanani, University of Baroda, India:

The pace with which a RAP study can be done may be based in part on the priority placed by the problem to be studied by the community where you are working. Available manpower may also influence the RAP period. For example, a study on water, which is a high priority for most rural people may be able to be completed much more quickly than a study on a lower priority area such as problems of health promotion.

Joseph Valadez, Harvard Institute of International Development:

The "R" in RAP needs to be clarified. There are two types of work that seem to have been done and need to be reported on. The first is that the issue of how rapid something is needs to be demonstrated both in terms of the time and in terms of the person power it takes to perform the tasks compared to quantitative methods. RAP is often being compared to the time normally taken by traditional anthropological studies. RAP appears to be a method preferred for working on important public health questions in an urgent manner compared to traditional study methods from anthropologies. RAP may provide an opportunity for communities to participate and it provides formative information for programme planning. What is most important is the type of information that you are able to get and provide to decision makers. It would be good to have some information on how long a RAP will take for decision makers in health and primary care. These people need to know how much time it will take for their staff to participate in or carry out RAP within the context of their other duties.

Vijaya Shretha, Nepal:

Survey methods take a long time and are expensive. It could take from six to nine months to get reports and by that time the work had already begun, based not on new information but on what had been done before. Still, speed is not the only consideration; we need information on what is acceptable to the community.

Elena Hurtado, INCAP, Guatemala:

RAP may not be quicker than quantitative methods, but it provides different yet complementary information. It is faster than normal anthropological methods.

Clarice da Mota, Federal University, Brazil:

There are strengths and weaknesses of having or not having in-depth knowledge of the society in which you work when conducting RAP studies. You must have some knowledge. But if you are very familiar with a situation you may be hindered by your assumptions. If you are relatively unfamiliar you find yourself being very careful. If you go into a different environment, you have to rely on the knowledge of other people and you do have to work with them. Once you work with a translator, a local person, not very well educated, you are drawing valuable ethnographic information from that person. Ideally, you should have much more time for familiarity, but to maximize the quality of time spent is to use local resources well and carefully.

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