3.5 Tools and approaches: investigating
Knowing what information to collect, how to analyze it, and how to present it in order to make a case are not simply ‘inputs’ to a project, but are vital political resources in effecting change. In order both to contribute to policy and development and to share in the evaluation of developmental change, development managers need to make use of a whole range of investigative skills. Here we look at just one set of skills developed in a different discipline (journalism), but of immense value to development managers, who in the nature of things cannot be full-time investigators but do need to investigate.
Read Joseph Hanlon's article ‘Grabbing Attention’, linked below. As you read, think about what Hanlon identifies as the key stages in an investigation.
Click below to view the article (0.03 MB).
The four stages identified by Hanlon are:
throw the net wider or ‘find the woman who knows’;
redefine the question and select the key issue;
discard and deepen;
write the report to have the desired result.
This is an extremely rich article and there is much in all four steps that is relevant for investigations carried out by development managers. In the process of ‘finding the woman who knows’, note that there may be several such women, and they may be found in all sorts of contexts, although those who have local knowledge may be of particular value. But it's not just women (or people) who provide information. Hanlon stresses the importance of giving equal weight to ‘people and paper’ in the early stages of the investigation. Once you've made this initial trawl you may well need to widen the net. This means being open to contributions from new informants, which may lead to extending the boundaries of the investigation and/or challenging initial assumptions in the light of new knowledge. Once you have defined the key issues, you can discard irrelevant information.
Finally, you need to make sure you include, and respond to, the other side(s) of the argument. This is not only to prove your rigour and lack of bias, but can be a powerful means of making a more convincing argument. This leads to the final issue that you need to consider carefully – your presentation and communications method, most obviously in relation to writing a report.
All this is an intensely political process in which different ‘truths’ are contested. This means information does not ‘speak for itself’, but rather political savvy and good communication help to get issues to the top of the agenda.