In Preparation part two – “Ethnographic Methods in the BoP Markets”

While doing a project in any scale it really helps to organise a workshop with all the individuals involved. This should be aimed at figuring out the goals and objectives of such a field trip. There is a lot that cannot be planned and there is no real way of knowing what can happen on the ground. It helps in getting as much as knowledge form people who has done similar ethnographic work, and having a sound plan. Be prepared to know that there is a lot more out there than what we expect there to be. We had such a workshop organised by our project, was also a chance to know people involved.  The group I was traveling with we have only briefly met couple of times. I think the second time we met was for this seminar on “Ethnographic Methods in the BoP Markets” by Sara Lindemann. Sara shared her knowledge on BOP practices research project at Aalto. The research group have conducted ethnographic field research in India, Russia, Tanzania, and Brazil. Here are few things I picked up along with my thoughts.

First things:

Good understanding of the “over all aim” vs “your own aim”.

What do you plan to come back with as tangible outcomes?

Design Thinking and User driven innovation. [ check links below, Design Thinking for Social Innovation By Tim Brown & Jocelyn Wyatt ]

Design your research, rolls, methods, strategies, mid-maps, what kinds of outcome.

Design what you will do on the ground and be flexible. [ think of resource constraints — time / people / money  ].

Getting permissions, like of a village elder for example if you plan on being in the village for a long period of time.

Understanding the rules and letting the local authorities know about your work if necessary.

Working with people who has access to the locals, like NGO’s that has worked in that area with the local people.

Translators, some one you can have as a team member and not just to translate. It’s often easy to find university students in related field of study or NGO’s who are experienced.

Having a a good training sessions for translators or local team working with you, so you are well acquainted with each other and the pace of each others work.

Letting your self immerse into the environment, culture, practices, food habits etc.


Conducting In-depth interviews

Expert interviews [ Workshop with entrepreneur women, discussion with local authorities, shorter expert interviews ]

Ad hoc interviews [ quick interviews as needed, at marketplaces, schools and homes,visits, local authorities ] Lot of my work was done this way.


Audio Recorder: Highly recommended to have one that can do good high quality audio. Note; if you will be doing a lot of work out doors, it helps to have a device that can capture the conversation clearly even with the noises around. Check out the Panasonic Digital IC Recorder. Since i was no budget for my thesis work, I used my own cell phone, I have a Nokia 5800 XpressMusic that had a good sound capture. Remember to switch your phone to offline mode when you use it on the field and while recording ]

Video and Photos: If your study require further analysing of practices you might need a video recorder. Like how the women cooked certain kinds of food could be worth recording on a video for further analysis. Videos can also get a lot to manage, so plan ahead on how you intend of using this material. A three hour video would mean twice or more time to go though to analyse such data and then think of storage and retrieval of such data. I used my Canon PowerShot SD 780. Use something that you are comfortable with and know well to use. I used this for photos as well, since I was also trying to minimise the amount of things I carried this worked well for me.

A good messenger bag [ easier to access things from a messenger than a backpack, I used a tote bag, may be not so good in the rain but good if you are trying not to look like an out sider. Think about weather, safety, theft etc when you choose one.

Note books, writing materials… recommend picking something local. I used a regular note book and a small pocket sized moleskin.

Other things: Sanitation, Flash light, Umbrella, camera/devices batteries, spare camera batteries and charger, memory chips, portable USB drive, laptop.

Look into:

Health check up, money, exchange rates, local currency, spend local its good for the local community.

Accommodation, city maps, travel arrangements, travel guide, important local contacts / phone numbers if any.

Local Mobile prepaid phone if available.

I have been following Design Anthropology works by Jan Chipchase and highly recommend checking out his recent talk / post Imperialist Tendencies. Also his talk @ PopTec — Design Anthropology

Most importantly remember that its all about observation and making sure you have a good process of recollecting and logging every days event on a daily basis.

I will go through details of collecting in the next entries, as I talk about my week in the village.