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MLE Community of Practice (CoP) Builds Capacity of M&E Team on Qualitative Research Methods

The Monitoring, Learning and Evaluation (MLE) CoP conducted a one-day training of its members on the use of qualitative research methods in routine monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of development projects. The training was held in held in Entebbe – Uganda – on February 05 and 06, 2019 and attended by 30 participants (8 women and 12 men).

Participants of the Monitoring, Learning and Evaluation (MLE) CoP meeting. Photo credit: F. Njung’e


It was a response to requests by members for a systematic exposure to the methods and best practices of qualitative research that can be used as part of the broader M&E toolkit.

Sarah Mayanja, during the training

For most people, the word qualitative research is synonymous with focus group discussion, one of the most commonly used method. But is it so? If not, then what really is qualitative research, what is its role in monitoring and evaluation of agricultural development projects, and what are some of the most used methods, and for what contexts?  These were some of the questions addressed during the training event.  The training comprised half-day interactive in-room sessions, followed by illustrative applications/cases from Ethiopia, Uganda & Tanzania, Mozambique and Rwanda. It was delivered by Ms. Sarah Mayanja, a Value Chain and Gender Specialist at the International Potato Center (CIP) with support from Dr. Julius Okello, the training co-convenor and Ms. Susan Ajambo, a Gender Specialist at Bioversity International. The topics covered included: principles and theories of qualitative research, qualitative research methods, guides and tools in qualitative research, best practices in data collection using qualitative research and the analysis of qualitative data. The oral discussions were complemented with a video showing qualitative data collection process and highlighting best practices.

To reinforce and deepen the learning, the trainees went out to the field during the second part of the training and participated in actual qualitative data collection using focus group discussions (FGDs). The FGDs were designed to demonstrate best practices including the mobilization process, group size, gender considerations, the use of carefully pre-designed structured questions, the interview process, and mastering group dynamics.   

FDG group sessions to demonstrate best practices. Photo credit: F. Njung’e

For many a participant, the training was both opportune and very essential. A sample of feedback below during and after the training illustrates the feeling of the participants.

Lonjenzo Maskini: “We all somehow have done FGDs before, but we usually don’t know the real principles behind it.”

Wellington Jogo: “I have found this training very useful and had to participate in and observe how a good FGD is organized and run. Our donor has been asking us to explain WHY the findings of quantitative data we present are as they are, but I lacked the knowledge to use methods discussed here to do that.”

Faith Njunge: “I learned a lot about FGDs by observing how the one I was in was run.  Everything was new but very useful to me to learn.

The one-day training was part of the annual MLE CoP meeting whose theme was “monitoring and qualitative data collection methods: sharing experiences”. Prior to the training, participants reviewed the quantitative data collection modules developed by a CIP team to harmonize the tools and techniques of M&E data collection, and also shared their field experiences in using the tools and techniques.  

About Julius Juma Okello

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