Points of discussions:
- Share experiences from census.
- Share the challenges faced and how they tried to solve them.
Addis Ababa Team:
If the owners were there, the work was easier because they wanted to understand about the purpose of the study, and based on the objective, they would then accept or reject to participate in the study. But most employees and managers were very pessimistic about the benefit of the study. They were saying “Some Netherlands Research Company will not do anything for us, rather the success of this research is for their own benefit. For this phase, we can give you the information you need but we can’t further go with the study.” The candidates have been involved in several studies previously and they have been fed up with interviews. Especially those firms which are found on malls and also eye-glass firms were not willing to give any information. I even left my “benefit of the study” printed paper with my phone number on it to them so that they can give me a call if they change their minds, but I have never received any calls.
I didn’t have the experience of going alone in one location for a census. The willingness to give info was high because they we usually went as a group. One of the locations I was assigned at was “Megenagna” and there are about 7 malls and even if the owners were there, they were not willing to participate because they connect the study with tax office. And even the owners themselves would say “the owner is not here”. Most firms were asking why we are skipping restaurants and barber shops so I was telling them the interest of the study and the need for selection to be part of the study at the end. Sometimes, one person starts being cooperative, the other person told him/her not to cooperate. So, you need to be very patient to handle different behaviors.
Sometimes the owners will be willing to participate; they want to know about our company and where our office is located. So, when I tell them there is no office in Ethiopia, but we are based in the Netherlands working with NYU in America, and also that L-IFT has been working in different African countries including Ethiopia, they say “how can a company help us when it doesn’t even have an office here?” They even asked how the Ministry of Trade gave us a support letter when we didn’t have an office in Ethiopia, and I got rejected due to this reason.
When they asked us in detail about the study and when we explained about financial diary, since they understood that we will be collecting their financial information they got uncomfortable. Finance issue is an overly sensitive matter for most people, and it will be a challenge for the coming works as well.
I sometimes wonder if the people who said they want to participate really understood the study. Because sometimes when I asked about where they get their inputs, they thought I would help them to get appropriate inputs because they face shortage. So, I usually cross check if they understood the study well.
In Merkato, it was difficult to conduct the interview because they were very suspicious of us being from government offices.
Most people think that research won’t bring out any benefit for them. They asked if we are really going to do what we aimed to do.
One person was telling me that when government wants to implement a policy, they hire consultants to do the research. “So, if you are not hired from the government, how can you make the difference? It would be great if you show us some evidence/document that indicates you will be using the research for policy implications.”
It was difficult to get the owners because the workers were afraid of giving any information about the business.
I was working more in the industrial villages; here, Governmental and other non-governmental organizations have repeatedly conducted different researches so they were tired of research works but I tried my best to explain about our company and the objective of the research in detail.
Most employees are not willing to share the business’s information and the other challenge was travelling from one firm to the other if the border is in the residence area.
To overcome the challenges, I showed them my letters when I first entered their firms and explained about the benefit of the study because I didn’t want them to think they will get individual benefits.
Henok A. (FS)
I have started the letter processing during the preparation phase and after the training I shifted to process the letters for each kebeles in DireDawa. Then when we started the work, it was difficult to achieve good number of census results in Harar because there were not enough eligible firms in that location.
Challenges: Most people think research doesn’t bring out important impact because they haven’t seen it being implemented on the ground. Many different companies come and study our firms, but they didn’t see any changes. Their main question was “how can government use this study in the policy designing? And as you are working for foreign companies, they will only use the research for their own benefits and not for us.”
The people were cooperative, but the most difficult challenge was finding eligible firms in my assigned locations. Then when I started the census questions, they asked what the individual benefits are for them.
Some people even thought I might be a spy. So, when that happened, I showed them my ID, shared L-IFT’s website, showed some videos and gave them my living address indicating that I’m also a resident in Harar. But since there were many cases where those people got affected by giving their confidential information to people, they have lost their trust, and didn’t want to participate in this research. In other studies, surveyors go as a group and they get the acceptances from the people. Then when I received L-IFT’s t-shirt, ID with its holder, the acceptances increased because people immediately noticed that I’m doing a valid research.
Just before the census started a week ago, people from governmental tax office were looking around Harar so the community were confusing us with the tax office. But I tried to show the difference to them using my ID. Some were connecting us with politics because we were also showing them the Ministry of Trade support letter which is written in English.
Now I fear that the intake questions are lengthy compared to census so they might not be interested to answer all that questions.
One of the challenges I faced was when I found some eligible firms and tried interviewing them, they might be busy or it sometimes take a lot of time finishing the interview. Additionally, moving from one to the other eligible firm was lengthy.
Some people even talk about themselves and their challenges during the interview so by being an empathetic researcher, I let them finish their opinions, but it took my time.
After the training, we struggled to get the support letters because they were in continuous meetings, so we had to delay our census by day or two compared to Addis Ababa team. The FRs work all day but couldn’t achieve the planned number.
People first ask the benefit of the study and even if we tried to explain exhaustively, some of the people were fed up with participating in the research because they didn’t see the impact of the research. Hence, it was time-consuming to do the introductions.
Firm owners were not present at most times and employees are reluctant to give any information.
The other challenge was by following the borders, most eligible firms were excluded. Regarding to variety of firms, in most cases, we have the same types of firms in one area.
When we told them, we are not from the government office, they said that is riskier because they thought we might even be thieves. So, some even preferred we were from the government office. When we discussed about financial diary, they were not comfortable to discussing about sensitive matter such as finance.
I have gained a lot of experience and I want to appreciate this company. The main challenge I faced from the people was “refusals” because there were a lot of researches being done in the community and they were tired of it. Then they asked what the direct benefit for them is for participating in the study.
At the beginning of the census, we were given locations and we studied the borders and I knew exactly where I was going but later, the more the location areas expanded and the more I was assigned with new ones, it was confusing because it took me time to identify the locations using GPS.
When I first entered a business, I didn’t get in touch with the owners/managers but rather with employees. Then when I asked to contact the owner/manager, the employees told me that I can speak with them instead. After explaining about the project; the objective, benefit and so forth, they then told me to contact the owner/manager and that they wouldn’t be able to give me the information. They did this because at first, they thought they would get financial benefit but at the end when they learned the real benefit, they said that they were not the owner/manager and they gave me appointments.
In Adama, there are businesses in temporary tents for bazaars that the government facilities from Friday to Sunday. They produce leather products or soaps in their homes and sell it at the streets in tents in those 3 days. These firms don’t have permanent sales point so I couldn’t take the GPS in their temporary locations. So, I preferred to take the GPS at their production point so that I can meet them for the next interviews. And they were confused why I had to go to the production point and take locations. But after explaining why I need the GPS for their permanent production point, they gave me directions and I was able to capture the GPS there.
Most people ask why we don’t have an office. I was telling them due to covid-19 most works are becoming online, and the government is encouraging this type of works for social distancing. And when I show them the letters, they started to trust me. One lady who produces liquid soap was telling me that she has participated in different research, but the researchers were not reporting what she has told them, so she was afraid to trust me. Then I explained about research ethics and transparency. I also told her that she can see the data when I entered her answers on the data collection application.
When I first make the introduction and told them I came from L-IFT (Low-Income Financial Transformation), some would say we are not low-income but rather medium or larger.
They also asked me what L-IFT and NYU benefit from the study. Some people refused to participate because from their past experience, “NGOs conduct researches on us but we have never seen the impact and hence, the only benefit of the studies is for the NGO”. They would then say, “I will give you the info now because you are a woman travelling in the sun.” Only few people really wanted to participate in the study.
Where is your office? Some said, “if you had an office here in Adama, I would then come there and do the interview rather for you to travel because we might not be available when you come to us.” Regarding to the weekly interviews, they said “even if you don’t get tired of asking the same questions over and over again, we get tired for no benefit at all.”
When I asked where they get their inputs, few would say “are you trying to get that information and start your own business? What type of study is this?”
When I asked the number of employees, few firms said, “are you trying to sue us for hiring underage children?” and they tried to attack me.
Sometimes, the owner him/herself would say “I’m not the owner” and the other person would tell me that is the owner.
Most people expect payment to participate in the study and when I told them there is no payment, they will instantly reject me by saying they are busy.
I fear there will be refusals in the coming interviews. Some would say if you solved our input supply, workplace problems, we would work with you. If you will not give us any financial benefits, we don’t want to talk about financial issues.
We all worked beyond our capacity and most teams were taking different creative strategies to solve the issues they faced.
Let’s try to be friendly when we first approach them.
When we mention about the one-year weekly interview, people get overwhelmed.
Let’s try to create conducive environment when doing the interview.
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