Friday, June 22, 2007

Bogra Training Session, June 11th-14th

We just completed the first training session with the data collectors we’ll be working with on the project. The thirteen villagers from the Rangpur district with whom we’ll be working met us at Nijera Kori’s training center in Bogra for three days of data-collection training last week. Unnayan Onneshan’s Monower Mostafa led the training sessions, which he focused on consciousness-raising and interview techniques. Nijera Kori, who helped us determine an ideal site for our research, introduced us to these thirteen villagers who they have worked with through their own grassroots organizing work in the area. Upon meeting them for the first time, we were very impressed with their sense of comfort in interviewing and their enthusiasm for the research and the subject of microcredit.

We first met the villagers on the night we arrived in Bogra, at dinner. After we all introduced ourselves, they sang us what turned out to be one of many songs over the next few days. Singing is very common in Bangladesh, especially in the rural areas. The landless people who work with Nijera Kori are particularly excited about singing together, about all sorts of topics ranging from group solidarity to Bangladesh's liberation war to Hindu-Muslim unity.

Monower focused the first day of training on developing the perspectives of the villagers, helping them think critically about life in their village. Through a mixture of lecture, discussion, and hands-on activities throughout the day, he worked with them to come to a broader understanding of the changing dynamics of their village over time and the differences between microcredit institutions and different forms of credit available to people in their village. The training was still going strong at 9:00 when we realized it was time for dinner and we had to stop for the day. We apologized for keeping them so late, and they insisted that they were so excited about the work we were doing together that they could stay for two more hours without needing to stop.

On the second day of training, we unveiled the digital voice recorders that they will be using to record their interviews with their fellow villagers. After teaching them in small groups for about half an hour how to use the different buttons, the excitement became palpable. Learning to use the new technology was really exciting for them, particularly being able to hear their own voices played back to them. They immediately began practicing, conducting sample interviews and recording themselves singing into the recorders. They took turns recording each other, some singing alone, some in groups. Their love of singing collectively turned out to be a great way to engage more actively in learning about the technology that they'll be using for conducting interviews.

The last day of training, we staged mock interviews with another group of villagers who were visiting the center for a different Nijera Kori training session. It was great to get a chance to see our data collectors in action, trying out their new skills. Hearing the stories they heard from their test respondents was exciting. They emphasized their enthusiasm for talking to people like them about their stories and experiences with microcredit.

We are feeling extremely excited about the results of the training session, and the enthusiasm of the interviewers about getting the stories heard of microcredit at the grassroots level. The training was designed to give our data collectors the tools to fully explore people’s stories about microcredit from their own perspectives. We deemphasized formally-framed questions, and taught them instead to be sensitive to following the natural progression of stories and conversations, getting as much detail and as many angles as possible. In their sample interviews, we saw this training come to fruition. In early July, we’ll be heading up to Rangpur for a while for a follow-up training and the beginning of our data collection process!

We look forward to posting more stories about the individual interviewers soon.

1 comment:

joe s said...

reading this i was stunned at how effectively you guys are using grassroots organizing to learn more about microcredits in bangladesh. i think NGOs around the world could benefit from the way you are approaching this and if every foundation did what you're doing the world would be a better place. that and if new order toured the US again...please bernard sumner please?