Sunday, September 2, 2007

Field Work Completed!

Since returning from our field site near Rangpur, Bangladesh, where we conducted the research component of our project, we have been completely swamped in working through the hundreds of hours of audio files we have collected and beginning the serious work of analysis. Our research team of ten villagers conducted over 150 interviews during the months of July and August, exceeding our expectations both in quantity and quality. The team interviewed members of their community about their experiences with microcredit. We met with them every day and downloaded the audio files off of their digital recorders onto a laptop, changed the recorders' batteries, and helped them with the challenges that emerged. Through this process, we had the opportunity to hear many stories directly after they had been told, and to see how the data collectors struggled with and really felt for their respondents. It was obvious to us that they really developed a passion for giving people the opportunity to have their stories heard. We became quite close to them, and we all had a difficult time saying goodbye.

The first step towards beginning the analysis is having all of the audio files translated and transcribed by a team of translators we have put together in Dhaka. The translations we’ve gotten back so far have been absolutely riveting. For one village, peoples’ experiences with microcredit have been incredibly complex and diverse. We were especially glad to see that people were excited to offer their opinions on how to improve microcredit programs. Knowing that their voices and stories were going to be shared with people not only outside of their village, but all over the world, and that their opinions would be valued and considered by people with the power to make helpful changes to the institutions most important in their lives, the respondents were invigorated. The transcripts show their hopes, dreams, challenges, struggles, and the strength people muster on a daily basis to survive in the midst of extreme poverty.

On our last day of our research, our team of data collectors arranged a tour for us of their village, as we had made a point not to go into the village ourselves beforehand so that our presence wouldn’t interfere with their research. We had the opportunity to see all their houses, meet their families, and to talk with many of the people they interviewed. In Bangladesh, hosting people in your home is a great honor, and hosting foreigners (seldom seen in Bangladesh, let alone in remote villages) is even more so. People were blown away to see us walking around the village, and we were honored to be welcomed so warmly into their homes. Everyone felt honored that we took an interest in their stories-- the interviewers said they had become like heroes in their village because they have shown that people’s stories actually mean something. The enthusiasm of our team of data collectors along with the rest of their community has made us even more excited about the potential for their stories and experiences to really have an impact on the way that microcredit programs are implemented.