Research & Development Methodology for the State of Participatory Democracy Index

Photo by Johannes Odé

Laying the Foundation

The first step in creating the Participatory Local Democracy project is to develop a Community of Practice (CoP) among practitioners from civil society, academia and government who focus on local democracy and participatory governance issues around the world. The team of The Hunger Project (THP) staff and George Washington University (GWU) Graduate students will conduct at least three consultations with Participatory Local Democracy’s growing Community of Practice to identify and re-configure components and subcomponents of the State of Participatory Democracy Index (SPDI). The consultations will also ensure the legitimacy of the survey method tools.

In order to gather the necessary information, GWU capstone students will review existing literature and indexes (i) to collect existing data relevant  for the SPDI, (ii) to identify questions for the new survey instrument, and (iii) to develop a framework for administering the survey.

The Survey Instrument

The Hunger Project’s CoP working group includes GWU capstone students, THP’s Washington, DC (THP-DC) office staff and international advisors. Together, we aim to develop a survey instrument that measures both the policy environment and operating environment of participating countries. The questions and format of the new survey instrument will be vetted with the CoP in order to invite expert input and ensure transparency.

The GWU capstone students will field-test the proposed survey questions during upcoming country consultations. The draft-survey will be conducted with consultation participants, as well as several other organizations working on similar country projects. The group will compile the sample data into a “Beta” index. The Hunger Project working group will review sample survey findings and cross-reference existing indexes to ensure the reliability of our data.

The group will collect feedback about the survey’s integrity, scope and implementation during each consultation period. The feedback will be reviewed by THP’-DC’s office with a focus on evaluating the survey process and identifying weak or problematic questions. The working group will adjust the survey methodology based on these assessments, and will present all significant changes to the Community of Practice in an open forum through the online platform.

The survey will be distributed again in April ahead of the South Africa consultation. Participants will discuss potential changes to the survey process during each consultation meeting. We expect the final review phase to extend through mid-May, allowing approximately two months for the working group (then excluding the graduated Capstone students) to administer the finalized survey, collect forms, synthesize respondent data, and conduct desk research about the legal and policy environment of each participating country.

Survey Data Collection

The first report selects participants in approximately 50 countries based on low national maternal health scores, a variable highly correlated with civic participation in local governance and budgeting. Additional country partners that have hosted project consultations before the first publication may also be included. Distributed to practitioners, academics, government officials, professional networks, and community leaders, the survey instrument allows for the expansion of the Community of Practice network in surveyed countries.

The Hunger Project’s Washington, DC office will consolidate completed survey forms. Country partners will collect printed forms to then scan and forward to THP staff. The Hunger Project’s Washington, DC office is responsible for final data review and synthesis.

Scoring and Reporting

Country scores are determined by compiling third-party survey findings and data for each subcomponent of the SPDI. Scores reflecting the policy environment in each country will  be distinguishable from scores reflecting its operating environment, thus ensuring the production of two figures for each major component and appropriate subcomponents. A general consensus within the CoP will determine the relative weight of the Index’s subcomponents. The Hunger Project’s working group will issue a full report outlining the project’s methodology, findings, and case studies of participatory governance and decentralization.

Expected Obstacles

Possible obstacles to developing an effective methodology for successfully completing Participatory Local Democracy’s  project include the following:

  • Difficulty verifying data from completed paper surveys;
  • Balancing the integrity and length of the survey instrument;
  • Logistics for collecting data remaining unclear;
  • Identifying 50 appropriate countries to participate in the first annual Index;
  • Developing sufficient outreach with implementing partners in 50 participating countries before June 2013; and
  • Identifying a desired quota for the number of individual participants in each country.

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