|Energy Survey Methodologies for Developing Countries (BOSTID, 1980)|
In any given society, there exist unknown or poorly understood sociocultural factors that have a direct bearing on ways in which planning and policy determination can be designed and implemented. This paper provides an overview of the most useful social science data-gathering methodologies that can be used to determine what these factors are, how important they may be in determining acceptance of change, and what strategies or tactics might best be used to create community awareness of actual practices and options in energy-related activities.
Horror stories abound with respect to large and small projects that have failed because some "apparently" insignificant cultural factor was either unrecognized or ignored. It is rarely possible to design projects or to arrive at useful policy guidelines which affect the daily lives of people in traditional societies without having detailed information about the perceptions such people have of themselves: their value systems and priorities; their fears and aspirations; and their customs, traditions, and taboos.
Existing inventories of community energy needs and resources are woefully inadequate for the requirements of planners and program designers in the developing countries, particularly in rural areas. Lack of adequate information may well result, in part, from the lack of recognition by villagers of what constitutes an "energy" factor in their daily lives. While most of them are aware of the need for fuel, for example, few recognize the "energy" factor involved in the time and human effort required to gather or cut wood. Nor would similar efforts required for drawing and hauling water be singled out as energy until, perhaps, the advent of electricity, pumped water, and home distribution suddenly dramatizes the vastly increased released time enjoyed by the women and children who had previously provided the water.
The social science methodologies needed to obtain behavioral, attitudinal, and social organization data related to energy are in some ways less difficult to implement than the "software" components for projects involving water supply and excrete disposal or contraceptive usage, since the latter often involve taboos or matters of a highly personal nature. Energy needs and resources are more complex and interrelated, and, therefore, must be viewed in a holistic way within the environmental setting as well as within the sociocultural context and the changing economic systems.
It is probably safe to say that decisions on energy use are made universally on the basis of what seems logical, reasonable, and acceptable by all energy users. AS energy becomes relatively more costly in both developing and developed nations, changing patterns can be seen, The fuel-efficient, wood-burning stove begins to sound like a good idea to the woman who now spends several hours a day gathering firewood, just as the compact car looks like a good idea to last year's full-size car owner.
New techniques and approaches designed to conserve or maximize energy seldom have immediate acceptance. They must first be understood and then seen as socially acceptable before being used. Consider how much greater a technological leap a woman in a rural village must make to move from a three-stone hearth on the ground to a Lorena stove than the one an American motorist must make when he or she moves to a more energy-efficient automobile. And consider then the difficulty so many motorists have in making that relatively minor adjustment. Clearly, there are important considerations here that are unrelated to economic factors of the choice.
DATA GATHERING: SURVEY INSTRUMENTS
In using survey instruments, great care should be taken to use
culturally-specific categories and language. If a standardized instrument is
used for cross-cultural purposes, it must be pretested and adapted to local
conditions. An alternative methodology, which is really a technique for refining
an instrument or preparing a more reliable one for assessing attitudes and
beliefs and values, is the Heuristic Elicitation Methodology (HEM), originally
designed by Harding and Canfield. For this, focused group discussions of
particular problems and solutions are followed by individual open-ended
interviews with both men and women to elicit attitudes and perceptions. The
dialogues precede the preparation of a more general survey instrument, with
culturally-specific categories and local terminology.
The social science techniques found most useful in determining existing attitudes and practices, as well as in designing more acceptable and effective projects, are those in which the local people were most involved in identifying community needs and priorities. When problem-solving approaches are substituted for or used in addition to a structured questionnaire, the result is dialogue between community users and agency representatives or social scientists involved in project promotion and research. Much more data are generated than just answers to preconceived questions.
Face-to-face communication raises awareness of present practices and alternative opportunities, and defines problems and priorities. Ultimately, the joint analysis by the community and social scientist or agency leads to a greater understanding of needs and resources and, of course, alternatives.
BASIC APPROACHES TO FIELD RESEARCH
In evaluating various field techniques designed to promote an understanding of energy use and supply in the daily lives of people, it is important to remember that there is no ideal or best method. Various techniques have disciplinary overtones and complexities that tend to confuse the picture in transdisciplinary, international research. However, nearly all field techniques are based on a combination of three main approaches: observing, listening, and asking questions Whyte 1977).
The following are selected data-gathering methodologies for obtaining base-line information on the human dimensions of energy needs and resources (perceived and real).
Observation can be direct or indirect, structured or unstructured, using various specialized techniques. Observing actual behavior is a basic tool for understanding the human dimensions of energy needs and uses, especially within the context of household economies. Public behavior is much easier to observe and analyze than practices within the private sphere.
Along with community knowledge, practices, and beliefs, which questionnaires may reveal, there is a need for detailed information on individual behavior, attitudes, and hopes. Ethnographic data highlight some of the more intimate household routines and energy uses. Most of this can be obtained through indirect observation, indirect questioning, and participant observation.
Participant observation-observing, listening, and asking questions-used to be considered primarily an anthropological method for understanding foreign cultures, but more and more it is being used to obtain valid data and can serve as an adaptable method for field investigation of energy uses. The researcher lives with and participates in the daily life and activities of the people being studied. As a specialized technique, participant observation is less concerned with tools for handling data after they are collected than with obtaining valid data.
Some of the existing sociological and ethnographic studies contain energy-related data gathered by participant observation which could be useful in preparing specific energy-related schedules. Furthermore, the researchers who have done such ethnographic studies make up a pool of talent that could be mobilized for specific follow-up research.
Behavioral mapping is a reliable, simple technique for observing and recording specific behaviors in relation to specific locations. Such observation could be useful for analyzing daily energy needs, resources, and available options.
The actual preparation of a wall map, noting house holds, streets, and community resources, particularly those being analyzed, is an extremely useful tool. For instance, in Chan Kom, a remote Mayan village of 650 people, the bilingual students in the sixth-grade social science class, together with their teacher and the researcher, made a household survey and prepared a village map showing existing services. The map is still used by the mayor and the teacher, as well as by outside agencies as a basis for planning. In fact, villagers used the research data and map to develop a proposal for improved housing and received a government grant.
Pictorial Analysis and Sorting
The director of an extremely successful integrated rural development project (with a health component) in Colombia related how difficulties between the villagers and the interdisciplinary team were solved by a relatively simple technique-pictorial analysis (Elmendorf and Buckles 1978). Selected villagers were asked to sort photographs of the community into categories of needs or priorities, and then to rank these. Although the villagers categorized the needs and problems somewhat differently, parallels could be drawn with respect to their priority ratings. However, when this same task was assigned to the professionals, they sorted things in very different categories according to their disciplines. Most significant, however, was the fact that their understanding of the priority needs of the village were very different from those of the villagers. As a result, comparison of the two interpretations provided an excellent tool for self-analysis on the part of the staff and a new understanding of the need to give a high status to village priorities.
Asking Questions (Interviews and Surveys)
In the World Bank case studies on appropriate technology for water supply and waste disposal, structured interviews with the local leaders, adapted to the local situation, were used successfully in one village in Guatemala. In another village, a more open-ended unstructured schedule was administered to obtain extremely useful information from both leaders and innovators. The dialogue of the interviews in both villages gave the leaders an opportunity to explain local needs and resources as they viewed them and to learn about possible alternatives including past projects that were unsuccessful.
The interview becomes an exchange of information, not just an extractive process. In interviews with other knowledgeable people, such as midwives, healers, and storekeepers, new clues to problems, needs, and resources often surface, more basic to reality sometimes than information from community leaders. Interviewing selected families or categories of people, such as mothers, can be extremely useful if carried on over a period of time.
It is important to remember in all interviewing to record in full, using the language of the respondent when possible. Taping is a helpful tool but not always appropriate during the interview session. If sociological surveys are needed, they should be based on the results of the preliminary interviews and prior observation (participant observation, if possible) and should be designed keeping in mind local terminology and categories.
Oral history is a method of recording open-ended questions concerning a single topic or specific topics. With good rapport and sufficient time, material collected in this manner has high validity and is less researcher-dominated than most. This technique is particularly useful with the elderly.
Informal listening, particularly to school children, even overhearing them at play, can add new insights. Listening to the statements that are not answers to structured questions is often useful in the data-gathering process. Often we do not know the questions!
Elmendorf, M. and suckles, P. 1978. Socio-Cultural Aspects of Water Supply and Excreta Disposal. P.U. Report No. RES 15, World Bank, Washington, D.C., USA.
Whyte, A.V.T. 1977. Guidelines for Field Studies in Environmental Perception. MAB Technical Notes. UNESCO, Paris, France.