Between 17th-24th April we held a qualitative methods training programme, Fuel Up, in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, for our research team members. We had clear aims and objectives for our workshop but we were also committed to an open-ended, iterative approach. The workshop set out to introduce our research teams to qualitative research approaches drawn from social anthropology and design, introducing ethnographic, human centred, object oriented, visual, participatory and collaborative methods for studying energy technologies and practices.
In addition, we wanted to establish a working relationship as a research team. We wanted to identify individual strengths and interests, and we wanted to learn from people’s previous experiences. Our team including people who had conducted quantitative surveys on energy in Goudabou camp, people with extensive experience managing focus groups, and conducting semi-structured interviews, as well as people with extensive experience carrying out long term ethnographic fieldwork, and people with extensive experience around specific kinds of energy technologies, including cookstoves and solar lanterns.
Our commitments in organising the programme were to create a space in which all the researchers could be involved, working together to co-design a research process for thinking qualitatively/ethnographically about energy and forced displacement. We weren’t naive, however. We recognised that our ability to do this hinged on our capacity to navigate a number of implicit and explicit vertical hierarchies. (Project funds following from the ESRC/AHRC, through the University of Edinburgh, to Practical Action, and there was an obvious, inescapable division between those with responsibility for managing and delivering the grant and those employed on short term research contracts.) To this end, we set out to create a non-hierarchical atmosphere through small group work, practical activities in which we all participated, and through discussions that recognised and drew directly from each others’ expertise.
Our original proposal had been to keep these workshops open for a wider network of participants from the energy research/energy policy community. However, after the start of the project, the project team decided to restrict these workshops to the team members, to ensure that we used these opportunities to establish research relationships, methods, approaches and protocols within the core team. We are currently looking to run workshops for further participants at a later stage within the project timetable.
Download the key findings of these first workshop here.