Before joining IPA in 2006, I spent a year abroad in Botswana where I volunteered with several non-profit AIDS organizations. These were all small-scale NGOs serving core needs – palliative care, psychosocial support and rehabilitation services for people living with AIDS, supplemental orphan care, and testing and counseling services. Most of these organizations were operating on shoe-string budgets, relied on volunteer or poorly compensated staff, and were constantly having to shut down operations for lack of funds.
When we return to the US after months or years of working in the field, we often experience "reverse culture shock" - aspects of US culture seem surprising and unusual to us.I felt this when explaining "What is IPA?" to family members and friends, and realized I needed an entirely new approach.
We just completed the baseline survey for one of the projects I’m working on in Cagayan de Oro, the Philippines.Consequently, I’ve been spending most of my time the last few weeks thinking about how to get good data.Getting the right information might seem simple; figure out what you want to know about people and then ask them.However, in practice getting good data proves much more difficult.
New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof offers an online degree in evading bandits for Americans abroad. Although I suspect that most IPAers would agree with the spirit of Kristof's recommendation - that young people should spend time abroad - I wonder if his safety tips are a bit more controversial.
A funny thing is happening these days in Northern Ghana. After months and months of planning, we are almost at the point where we give 200 farmers actual cash to use on their maize farms. As with many of IPA’s research projects, the participants are selected at random. In other words, we’ve surveyed 500 farmers about their farming practices, but only 200 will receive capital grants.
Once, expressing concern over some logistical difficulty, I was reassured by a headmaster, “Do not worry Sarah, we shall succeed.”Such conversations tend to surprise me, as we’re introducing a savings scheme to an area defined by general distrust of financial services and particularly those having to do with savings.In spite of this fact, and though the program’s pilot has only been running for a couple months, the scheme has generated an extremely positive response.