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Prepping village field research from Nairobi

As I’ve posted before, Dan Posner, Lily Tsai and I are conducting some research in East Africa on the Uwezo initiative — which tries to positively influence citizenship participation and student learning through a series of national assessments and information campaigns. Lily and I have been here this week working with two terrific American graduate students and two wonderful Kenyan researchers, who will be the field coordinators on our project for the next three months. It’s been an extraordinarily busy 3 days getting ready for our upcoming work in Nyanza and Central provinces — we depart tomorrow.

We’ll be traveling in two teams to visit two set of villages in each province — half that were visited by the initiative back in February and March, and half that were not (control villages). And we want to see, of course, whether the initiative made any difference in the affected households and villages. Since Wednesday morning, we’ve been conducting training, running through and making final edits to a variety of survey questionnaires and interview guides, and getting organized to hire 16 survey enumerators. Today we sorted about 70,000 pages of documents — it was a very long day, but quite a sense of accomplishment when everything finally (seemed) very much ready to go. We will be quite a caravan heading out tomorrow with all of our bags and a few dozen boxes.

Although Google Maps are great… well, they still don’t provide much insight about where to find anything in the villages we’ll be studying. So, we will rely on maps like the one posted above, drawn by a village elder or some other local, who can convey their knowledge of the terrain by hand. The good news is that Uwezo has maps for half the villages we’ll be studying. The bad news is that when Lily and I visited the country headquarters today, a huge downpour rumbled through our meetings, and the electricity went out.  Although Uwezo’s generator continued to provide enough electricity for light, and the various data entry specialists could continue their work as they were on battery charged laptops, we could not use the power-hungry photocopier. So, I photographed the maps, as posted above, and that seems to have worked pretty well.

I was very impressed by all of the people I met today at Uwezo — including the regional director, Sara Ruto, and the country co-ordinator, John Mugo. I look forward to sharing with them the results of our study as they are all truly curious about what we will learn.

About Evan Lieberman

I am a Professor of Political Science at MIT, and I conduct research, write, and teach about development, ethnic politics, and research methods.

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