View Case Study Showcase List


People matter!

Evaluation of behaviour change. No mention of people there. Yet it’s people who are at the heart of behaviour change and evaluation. This was brought home to me vividly in this post from an aid worker in Haiti where assessments are an integral part of the response process.

As I write this, I’ve been in Haiti one day shy of a full month. And the truth is that I have spent the majority of my time here up to now chained to a desk. Yeah, I’ve done a few field visits and been to a few cluster meetings, but the reality is that what was most needed by my team was a “text bitch.” So that is what I was.

And so I confess that while I was very willing to do it, I was also a tiny bit disappointed two days ago to find that what was most needed from me was data-entry. Not having deep, intense, heart-wrenching conversations with earthquake survivors, not making big decisions about big numbers, not negotiating complex partnerships with diverse stakeholders.

Nope. Data-entry. Someone had to enter assessment data into an Excel spreadsheet. It is incredibly important to do it and do it accurately. And it’s also incredibly unglamorous. Me, my laptop computer, my iPod and a mountain of hand-written rapid assessment surveys.

About two thirds of the form was numerical, and so entering that data got to be pretty mechanical after the first hour or two. But that last third was all qualitative stuff: open-ended interview questions where at times the respondents appeared to have rambled or gone on wild tangents. But it didn’t take long to see obvious patterns emerging in the ways that people in Haiti seem to view their situation.

If those surveys that I entered are representative of the larger sample, more than anything else, people in Haiti are scared and hungry. Scared of another earthquake. Scared to sleep indoors. Those from host communities, are scared of all these people coming in who they don’t know. Some of them are scared of evil spirits. Many are scared of evil people.

There are no jobs. They have no money. Frequently listed coping mechanisms include “begging”, “nothing”, and “wait to see what God will do to us.”

And they’re hungry.

I have been to a few hardcore places in my time, and I now include post-earthquake Haiti in that “hardcore” category. I am generally able to detach emotionally in the moment for the sake of getting through the task at hand. But this one seems different, somehow. Maybe I’m getting soft. For the past three weeks images of people’s limbs protruding from beneath piles of rubble in downtown Port-au-Princehave been coming back to me during the night. But those images, dramatic as they are, were replaced two days ago by a few lines of scrawled Creole (with English translation) on a smudged piece of paper. A description of chronic, always-in-the-back-of-your-mind hunger by someone who’d lost everything:

“The hunger is… a hole beneath our hearts.”

A good reminder, that in any situation, extreme like Haiti or everyday like assessing local community sustainability behaviour, it’s about people. People matter!

You can read the complete Tales of the Hood post here.

Viv McWaters

| March 2nd, 2010 | Posted in Evaluation, Just Stuff |

Leave a Reply