AR WA participatory-research-design-training Jan2017

From africa-rising-wiki
Jump to: navigation, search

Africa RISING West Africa
Participatory Research Design Approaches Training
30-31 January, 2017
Accra, Ghana
[edit | edit source]


Aims[edit | edit source]

The aim of the workshop is to help improve the quality and relevance of participatory systems-focused research experiments done in the Africa RISING project through reflecting on what has been tried and seeking improvements in designs for further work.

Agenda[edit | edit source]

Monday – 30 Jan., 2017[edit | edit source]

08:00 Introductions and expectations (Workshop methods)
09:00 Africa RISING project overview (Asamoah)
09:30 Systems research (video) and brief discussion
10:30 New methods for new agronomy (presentation) and discussion
11:45 The sustainable intensification framework (presentation) and discussion
13:30 Participants present cases of research for discussion
16:00 Participants present cases of research for discussion
17:00 Compilation of emerging issues and prioritisation

Tuesday – 31 Jan., 2017[edit | edit source]

0800 Working groups on key topics
1030 Review of working group output
1130 Design or update research activities
1330 Design or update research activities
1430 Review new designs
1700 Evaluation and closing

*Note: all times are flexible and may be updated according to progress.


Background[edit | edit source]

After a workshop for Africa Rising in E and S Africa in Malawi in October 2016, Irmgard Hoeschle-Zeledon and Asamoah Larbi asked me to run something similar for the project in W Africa.

Aims[edit | edit source]

The aim of the workshop was to help improve the quality and relevance of participatory systems-focused research experiments done in the Africa Rising project through reflecting on what has been tried and seeking improvements in designs for further work.

Overall approach[edit | edit source]

1. Examine data and lessons from trials and other research that has been done and identify critical problems and issues arising.
2. Explore options for overcoming those problems
3. Develop updated research approaches, methods and designs that, if implemented, will strengthen future research.

What happened[edit | edit source]

Monday morning:
1. Introduction of people and process
2. Introduction of content:

  • The Africa Rising project theory, structure and expected outputs – a very useful reminder from Asamoah that set the scene for the rest of the workshop.
  • Video on systems research by Fergus Sinclair, recorded at a Humid Tropics conference – a compact summary of doing research from an systems perspective and the RinD model.
  • Presentation on the way that systems and participation paradigms shift research approaches and needs.

3. Each of these generated substantial discussion and started generating a list of issues to investigate further.

Monday afternoon
4. Four participants presented examples of their work with a focus on data collected and the challenges they face in using it and deciding what to do next. Again, these each generated substantial discussion and raised many questions. Some were dealt with immediately and others added to a list.

Tuesday morning
5. Presentation on the sustainable intensification (SI) framework, followed by discussion.
6. Choosing two working group topics for deeper discussion. Those selected were
(a) ISFM research in within the Si and systems frameworks, focusing in the work on Nurudeen (organic and P fertilizer amendments) and Birhanu (using cattle and poultry manure),
(b)Doing 'real' transdisciplinary participatory research, focusing on the work of Jean-Baptiste (intercropping cereals and vegetables).
Followed by presentation of outputs and discussion

Tuesday pm
7. Several short presentations on topics that had come up (comparative studies on units other than plots, farmers choosing treatments, influence diagrams as a research design tool).
8. Working groups designing the next stage of research for the two cases above
9. A brief look at approaches to analysis of variable data from 'baby trials'.
10. Evaluation and closing

Observations and comments[edit | edit source]

1. All logistics and practical arrangements for the workshop were excellent – that makes it a pleasure to do the work and much easier to concentrate on substance.
2. Participants were fully engaged and hardworking throughout. They were also will to present their work for critique, and joined in the discussion in constructive and non-defensive ways. That made the approach effective and allowed us to discuss the critical points in relation to their research, rather than abstractly or using examples they were not familiar with.
3. Generally the research presented looked competent but conventional, meaning

  • Components rather than systems
  • Biophysical rather than integrated
  • Seeking optima for recommendations rather than generating diversity to match diversity, or information for farmers to take decisions.
  • Farmers as recipients not participants
  • Focus on production rather than on all the dimensions of SI

This is not unusual nor is it surprising, given the dominance of these approaches in nearly all university training, in national programs and still in much CGIAR research. 4. Participants generally see the need for moving to systems, participation and SI approaches but keep on coming back to the need for 'replicates', statistical analyse they are familiar with (anova, means separation, 3 years data,…), etc as the basis of good quality and publishable research. Two things might help in this regard:

  • A collection of high quality papers that are examples of the type of research AR is aiming at.
  • Guidelines and examples of analyses that they find challenging ( eg understanding variation between farms, tradeoff at farm level)

5. I would recommend that any formal training that is organised be 100% based on participants' own work. With these sorts of novel and complex problems, people often find it very difficult to apply general principles learnt in training to specific cases. This means the distinction between 'training' and 'support' gets blurred. AR might consider trying to establish access to support to these scientists so that they can get regular bits of input.
6. Input and review is more important when designing studies than when analysing data, as weak analysis can be repeated but you are stuck with weak design for a long time. It would help if AR organised more opportunities for discussion and review during planning. This does not necessarily mean face to face meetings. For example, I regularly work with scientists on research design via Skype. It does take two things

  • AR leadership keeping up the pressure to shift the basis of research
  • Access to sympathetic support, not just from someone like me, but from different perspectives to build transdisciplinary nature.

7. If AR produced some methods guides that show examples of how to implement SI, RinD, etc then these could be very useful to others and make a general contribution to shifting research paradigms. My group (SSD) already have various things that might be useful and I will try to put a collection together for you.
8. A minor point: some of the data presented was very well prepared, but some was horrible! Data that is not well organised can not be analysed. Basic good use of Excel, for example, is something I would expect every one of these scientists to be competent at.