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close this bookRecording and Using Indigenous Knowledge: A Manual (IIRR, 1996, 211 p.)
close this folderPart 2 Recording and assessment methodologies
close this folderWorking with groups
View the documentBrainstorming
View the documentFive questions
View the documentGames
View the documentGroup discussions
View the documentRole play
View the documentStrengths and weaknesses
View the documentSWOT analysis
View the documentVillage reflections
View the documentVillage workshop



Group discussion in which members take turns offering ideas related to a specific topic.


To pool the knowledge of several people to collect as much information on a topic as possible in a short time.


- Chalkboard
- Chalk
- Paper and pencil

Possible approach

1 Prepare activity (see Village workshop).

2 The facilitator asks each participant to give an idea related to the topic. The facilitator writes each idea on the chalkboard. Participants may take turns, or the process may be spontaneous.

3 Repeat step two until all ideas are exhausted.

4 Sort or classify ideas and consolidate the results.

5 Discuss the results with the group.

6 Record the results on paper.

7 Conclude activity.


Idea cards

Instead recording ideas on a blackboard (or some other locally available drawing surface), consider whether participants might respond better using the card technique. Participants can write their ideas on carafe (one 10x30-cm card per idea) using marking pens, then tape them to display boards or Manila paper. Shy participants prefer this to speaking up. Some ideas might appear several times, however, making it more difficult to consolidate the output.



- can produce a quick overview or rough assessment of IK on a specific subject.

- is most useful for discovering the "what" of IK, but can also be used to explore "why," "how," "who," "when," and "where."

- affords a good take-off point for further research and for setting research priorities.

- raises people's awareness about their IK; however, the information produced is often sketchy and needs to be backed up and fleshed out using other methods.

Dos and don'ts

- Do make sure that everyone gets a turn and all ideas are discussed.

- If used with illiterate people, do use symbols for recording ideas. If this is not possible, read aloud all contributed ideas.

- Don't try this method with too many people. Seven to 10 people is best.

Compiled by Evelyn Mathias

Five questions


A five-step method of cause and effect analysis.


To assess indigenous practices and beliefs. In particular to determine whether they are helpful, harmful, or neutral according to scientific research.


- Notebook
- Pens

Possible approach

1 Write a brief statement about the practice or belief to be analyzed. The statement should describe the practice and say why it is done (see example).

2 Identify the clauses in the statement which relate to the cause and effect of the practice or belief.

3 Identify the scientific research findings related to the cause.

4 Assess the belief or practice as helpful, neutral, or harmful according to scientific knowledge.

5 Specify the action to be taken:

- Promote helpful indigenous practices.
- Tolerate neutral practices.
- Offer alternatives to harmful practices.


This technique

- helps discern whether a particular belief or practice has basis in scientific science.

- is useful for determining the difference between local and scientific views.

- has been validated for assessing indigenous health practices and has potential for wider application.

- provides a scientific science view of indigenous knowledge.

- provides a way to plan future actions based on people's previous experience and explanations of the world.


1 What is the practice/belief? A pregnant mother should not eat squash or else she will have a baby with a bald head.

2 What are the cause and effect? (cause) Pregnant mother should not eat squash.

Or (effect) She will have a baby with a bald head.

3 Scientific research findings related to cause: Squash is a rich source of vitamin A.

4 Helpful, harmful, neutral? Harmful, since mothers will be deprived of a rich source of vitamin A.

5 What action should be taken? Offer alternatives—Recommend green leafy vegetables and other yellow vegetables rich in vitamin A to make up for the lack of squash.


Compiled by: Estrella F. Gonzaga and P. Sandy M. fortune.



Form of play or sport—contents played according to rules and decided by superior skill, strength, or good fortune.


Used by development workers, games can build rapport, generate insights, and encourage participation by making training sessions an meetings more fun.


Depends upon the game.

Possible approach

Sample game which draws out participants' ideas:

1 Ask each participant to choose an item or action to represent. For example, each participant could represent a different item found on a farm,

2 Then ask participants, in turn, to connect themselves with rope or string, to a person representing a related farm item. For instance, a person representing soil might pass the end of his or her rope to the person representing a plow. The plow might pass a rope end to someone representing seeds, the seed might pass a rope end to someone representing water, and 50 on.

This game illustrates, in a fun way, the complexity of interrelationships. It could be used to demonstrate resource flows on a farm from the perspective of the participants.


Games of all sorts can be devised or adapted to discover IK and bring complex concepts to the fore. They are useful to raise participants' awareness of their own IK.

Compiled by Rustico A. Bi/BLOCKQUOTE>

Group discussions


Discussions with groups of six to 15 knowledgeable community members covering one or several topics. (See key informant panels [KIP] and focus groups in Abbreviations and Definitions.)


To generate information, to build consensus, to validate information gathered by other means, or to clarify information in documents lacking detail.


- Paper
- Marking pens
- Masking tape
- Chalkboard
- Chalk and eraser

Possible approach

1 Review available information on the community. Determine what data are needed.

2 Consult community leaders. Explain the purpose of the data collection and discuss the information you want to collect.

3 Determine, in consultation with community leaders, the criteria for group selection. Ideally, group members come from various walks of life and socioeconomic categories, representing formal and informal community organizations. The composition of the group will depend on the topic.

4 Let community leaders identify people in the community who fit the criteria. Be on the lookout for biases; make sure that people from the most remote hamlet or the poorest group in the community are represented. Otherwise the views and perceptions of the poor are not incorporated.

5 Prepare for the meeting:

- Set the date, time, and venue.
- Prepare guide question which will serve to steer discussions.
- Assign someone, possibly a group member, to record the proceedings.

6 Personally visit the group members to seek their agreement to participate in the discussion Explain the purpose and objectives of the meeting.

7 At the start of the meeting, introduce yourself and a group members. Carefully explain again the purpose and objectives of the discussion and how the information will be used. Mention the benefits that the community might derive from the meeting (see also Village workshop).

8 During the meeting

- Ask the first guide question. Solicit participation from all group members. Make sure discussions are not dominated by a few people.

- When consensus is reached, or when an issue cannot be resolved, introduce a new guide question.

- Record mayor points and the results of consensus.

9 At the close of the meeting, summarize major findings and consensus.

10 Inform other members of the community about the results.


Group discussions can provide IK data on farming and other livelihood practices, leadership structures and decision-making patterns, health practices and delivery systems, traditional medicines, labor sharing arrangements, local indicators of poverty and socio-economic standing, indigenous taxonomic schemes, and other information. Group discussions can also help the facilitator learn local terms and concepts that might have no direct equivalent in the outsider's language. When used in combination with other data-gathering technique, the information obtained can be of very good quality. The method is inexpensive and relatively easy.

Group discussions:

- foster participation and partnership in information gathering and analysis.

- generate information beyond what can be gleaned from interviews. When faced with conflicting information, several people can present bits of data until the group has enough information to reach consensus.

Dos and don'ts

- Do build rapport with group members.
- Do maintain a sense of humor while facilitating.
- Don't let one or a few members of the group monopolize the discussion.
- Don't create the impression that you are an expert on the topic (even if you are an expert).

Compiled by Teodoro L. Sevilla, Ella A. Jordan, Ricardo C. Armonia, Nita C. Abena and 5. 5. Tabrez Nasar.

Role play


Real-life re-enactment


To capture movements, actions, sequence, roles, and relationships of people, things, and practices. Can be a useful tool in training.


Materials vary depending on the situation to be re-enacted.

Possible approach

1 Discuss objectives and topic with the community or group involved (e.g., participants of a training course).

2 Together, assess how much time will be needed to prepare and rehearse the play (it will vary with topic, people involved, etc.).

3 The implementing group discusses the play, assigns roles and prepares materials. Outsiders should not interfere unless they are requested to help.

4 The group practices the play.

5 The actual role play is performed. Keep mental notes or record the play on video if the performing group agrees.

6 Analyze the play based on the initial objectives.


Role playing reveals to outsiders the "what" and "how" of IK. For example, when participants in a primary healthcare training course reenact how local healers treat patients, the course trainers gain a better understanding of the indigenous system. They arc thus able to make the course more relevant to participants. At the same time, the actors become more aware of their practices.

Dos and don'ts

- In some instances, you might want to give guide questions to the audience before the role play begins. For example, give guide questions if you want to use the play for training purposes and give the subsequent discussion a specific focus.

- Don't announce the topic of the role play to the audience if you want to use the role play as a way to collect ideas on how, or for what else, a certain practice could be used, or if you want to discern how many people in an audience are familiar with a certain practice.

Compiled by Adelina H. bognot and Evelyn Mathias

Strengths and weaknesses


Group exercise to list and explain the strengths and weaknesses of a practice, event, or technology.


To provide information for the possible improvement of a practice, event, or technology.


- Manila paper
- Marking pens

Possible approach

1 Prepare activity (see Village workshop).

2 Clarify topic with participants.

3 Draw a four-column table on Manila paper. Label the first column "+", the third column "-", and the second and last columns "Why?"

4 Ask participants to fill in the first two columns. Ask: "What do you value in this practice (event or technology)? For what reasons?"

5 Ask participants to fill in the next two columns. Ask: "What are the drawbacks of this practice (event or technology)? What are the reasons for these drawbacks?"

6 Discuss the output with the participants. Use the information in the last two columns to identify possible actions and discuss possible constraints. Write these on Manila paper.

8 Copy output and leave original with the community.


- Outsiders can learn about the strengths and weaknesses of a specific IK from the perspective of the insiders.

- The method highlights problems that need to be solved (column 4) and actions which could be taken to overcome these problems.

- Useful for assessing value of IK.

- Useful as a planning tool and for identifying follow-up activities.

Compiled by Evelyn Mathias


(Both are hypothetical and simplified. Both draw on field experiences of IIRR staff).

Traditional birth attendants (TBA)
Objective: Explore the use of TBAs for community health projects.

What do you value in a TBA? For what reasons?
What are the drawbacks of TBAs? What are the reasons for these drawbacks?




easy to call

live in village

have limited equipment

no money

holistic care and personal approach

attends to nutrition and personal care of mother after delivery

cannot do complicated cases

not trained for these


have the same culture

can be harmful

sometimes spread infection

What could we do to solve the problems listed in column 4? Possible actions based on the reasons given for the weaknesses:

- Train TBAs, especially in hygiene.
- Equip TBAs Introduce or increase user fees.
- Introduce or increase user fees


A more elaborate modification of the strengths and weaknesses exercise is as follows. You can use the diagram on the next page to help visualize the Process.

1 Ask participants to identify a particular i problem local people face.

2 Ask them to identify an indigenous practice which might be used to help solve this problem.

3 Participants identify who holds information on the practice (e.g., indigenous specialists) and why there is still a problem.

4 Participants identify strengths and weaknesses of the practice.

5 they suggest improvements to the practice, such as outside knowledge that could be blended with the indigenous practice.

6 They identify how such changes could affect the indigenous knowledge or people's perceptions and use of it.

7 They decide whether the practice is suitable for use or adaptation elsewhere.

Example of output

Compiled by Gregory C. Ira and participants of International Course on Regenerative Agriculture held at IIRR September 4-29, 1995.

SWOT analysis


A method of systematic group reflection—SWOT is an acronym which stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.


To gather, analyze, and evaluate information and identify strategic options facing a community, organization, or individual at a given time.


- Chalkboard
- Chalk

Possible approach

1 Prepare activity as described in the sections Brainstorming or Village workshop. Identify the topic—issues, situations, or specific techniques—to be analyzed. Possible topics include using the community's IK, IK and the environment, or intercropping.

2 Brief the community members on the procedure. Explain what you mean by strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (see sample matrix).

3 Draw a matrix that has nine fields (three rows and three columns). Leave upper left field blank. Label the other two fields in the upper row as "strengths" and "weaknesses." Label the second and third fields of the left column as "opportunities" and "threats."

4 Ask participants to list in the respective fields all strengths and weaknesses that they can think of relating to the issue, situation, or technique under discussion.

5 Do the same for development opportunities and threats.

6 Read responses aloud and discuss them.

7 Analyze the results. Use the following questions to fill in the four empty fields of the matrix:

- How can strengths be employed to take advantage of development opportunities? (call this the "S-O analysis" for strengths-opportunities strategies).

- How can strengths be used to counteract threats that tend to hinder achievement of objectives and pursuit of opportunities? (call this the "S-T analysis" for strengths-threats strategies).

- How can weaknesses be overcome to take advantage of development opportunities? (call this the "W-O analysis" for weaknesses-opportunities strategies).

- How can weaknesses be overcome to counteract threats that tend to hinder achievement of objectives and pursuit of opportunities? (call this the "W-T analysis" for weaknessesthreate strategies).

8 Ask participants to select options and to rate them according to their feasibility, potential for benefit, and urgency.

9 Discuss results with participants. Copy output and leave original with community.


SWOT can be used to:

- learn how community members value their IK and how they can put it to best use.
- analyze and evaluate specific IK technologies or practices.
- raise a community's awareness concerning the value of their IK.
- identify ways to increase the use of valuable IK.

Dos and don'ts

- Do keep SWOT analysis groups small—10 people or less.

- Do provide guide questions or criteria to participants if specific information is required. For example, if the community wants to explore the topic IK and the environment, the discussion could start with the question: What specific IK practices, beliefs, and technologies affect the environment?

- Where possible, list strengths and weaknesses juxtaposed to opportunities and threats, in order to help identify options.

Compiled by Tom Limpo

Sample Matrix



Positive characteristics and advantages of the issue, situation, or technique.

Negative characteristics and disadvantages of the issue, situation, or technique.


S-O Analysis


Factors, situations that can benefit, enhance or improve the issue, situation, or technique.

How can strengths be employed to take advantage of development opportunities?

How can weaknesses be overcome to take advantage of development opportunities?


S-T Analisis

W-T Anysis

Factors, situations that can hinder the issue, situation, or technique. achievement of and pursuit of opportunities?

How can strengths be used to counteract threats that tend to objectives

How can weaknesses be overcome to counteract threats that tend to hinder achievement of objectives and pursuit of opportunities?

Below is a hypothetical example of a SWOT used to weigh the meets of a traditional intercropping Practice using local cassava varieties in Ghana.



Optimal use of space.

Intercropping might not allow for mechanization.

Intercrops can positively influence each other.

Is labor intensive.

Local varieties need fewer inputs.

Reduced yields of individual crops.

High overall productivity of plot.

Local varieties sometimes fetch low prices in market.

Local varieties meet local needs.


Seeds, planting materials can be produced locally.

Initiate field study to test whether high overall productivity applies to this specific crop combination. If results support this assumption, this will deepen interest in IK.

Point out that intercropping provided employment opportunities.

Periodic shortage of planting materials for improved varieties .

Encourage production of local cassava variety to benefit from increased market benefit

Increased interest In traditional practices.

Improved varieties need high inputs which are often difficult to buy.

Produce information leaflets stressing advantages of traditional practice

Study yelds of local varieties with came inputs as usually given to improved varieties.

High unemployment rate.

Increasing market value of traditional cassava variety.

Threats improved varieties have high yield and high status.

Make people aware of value of local varieties

Develop and test improved varieties that can be grown in the traditional intercrop

Introduction of improved varieties has made local varieties difficult to find.

Stimulate production of local varieties.

System, e.g., make sure that canopy of improved cassava is not larger than that of traditional intercrop

Land scarcity with growing population. improved varieties might suppress growth of companion crops.

Improve local intercropping pattern to make optimal use of land.


Sample matrix compiled by Evelyn Mathias

Village reflections


A participatory, two-step process of analysis involving small groups of selected community members. The first step involves a workshop to train local facilitators. These facilitators then assist the outside | facilitators in repeating the workshop several times with other groups of villagers.


To help community members: 1) validate information, 2) evaluate information, and 3) recommend interventions.


By sharing their observations and expressing their ideas and feelings in small workshops, community members improve their ability to evaluate complex factors and relationships. This helps them to make plans and protect and enhance their interests.

- Materials
- Marking pens
- Blackboard
- Manila paper
- Chalk
- Masking tape
- Eraser
- Strips of paper (half or one- quarter the adze of typing paper) (optional)
- Pictures or drawings to stimulate discussion

Possible approach


1 Explain the village reflection process to the community. Ask the community to select seven to 15 people as facilitators. These facilitators will participate in the initial workshop, learn the process, and then assist in repeating the sessions throughout the community as echo workshops.

Workshop 1

1 Prepare for the workshop (see Village workshop).
2 Make clear the topic to be discussed.
3 Make clear the following rules.

- Each person has the right to contribute.
- There is no right or wrong observation, experience or feeling.
- There can be consensus, but also differences of opinion, experience, etc.

4 Group the participants as practitioners, beneficiaries, users, observers, or according to other criteria relevant to the subject under discussion. There should be 2-3 groups with about five members each.

5 Members of each group select a facilitator and reporter. These arc responsible for preparing the group's output for presentation.

6 Ask the participants to share ideas on the chosen topic. To stimulate and guide the discussion, you can pose guide questions similar to those listed in the box on page 74. You can also use other methods described in this manual (for example, Strengths and weaknesses).

7 Groups meet for about one hour to discuss the topic. Participants express in words or pictures their ideas, observations, or feelings about the topic. Responses can be printed or drawn on a blackboard or on large pieces of paper; or simply spoken.

8 The groups then collate their information and prepare it for presentation.

9 Participants meet as one large group. Each group takes 10 minutes to present its output.

10 Ask participants to:

- Note and highlight the similarities and differences between the outputs. (Responses written on strips of paper can be taped together, or colored pens or chalk can be used to highlight similarities and differences.)

- Analyze why similarities and differences arise. (What are the advantages, disadvantages, and other implications of such similarities and differences?)

- Specify factors that prevent or encourage others to share.

- Come up with a way to check with the rest of the community the validity of the findings.

Echo workshops

11 Arrange for the participants from the first workshop to organize several echo workshops in the community. The echo workshops can be held in different parts of the community, with different groups (men, women, old, young), or with people with different occupations or interests (e.g., large and small landowners, landless people, or health service providers and users). Each echo workshop can have about 20-30 participants.

12 The participants in the first workshop act as facilitators in the echo workshop. Apart from this, the echo workshops follow the same process as used in the first workshop. The participants can be divided into 3-4 discussion groups during the workshop; one facilitator can be assigned to handle each group.

Leave as much of the facilitation as possible to the local facilitators. You should act as overall coordinator, observing and guiding the process.

13 During the final plenary session, you should facilitate the overall discussions and help the participants draw conclusions and reach decisions about action to be taken.


- The reflection process helps people understand and analyze their

- The output can be used to help promote or improve an indigenous practice.

- The process provides a common, comprehensive. and area-specific understanding of a subject matter.

- Using several echo workshops can enable the discussions to include a large number of people—a group that would be unmanageable if all were to meet at one time.

- The echo workshops can be tailored to specific groups within the community. They allow cross-validation and "triangulation" of the outputs.

- It is important to choose the right local facilitators. Using local people rather than outsiders can help ensure that participants feel comfortable when discussing sensitive topics. Because they are community members, they can also immediately validate whether the information provided is accurate.

- The echo workshop process is valuable if you anticipate long-term work in the community. It is a useful way to train local people in organization and facilitation skills. However, because it involves a sizable time investment in such training and can raise local people's expectations, it might not be the most appropriate method if your plans are short term.

Dos and don'ts

- Do avoid judgmental comments.

- Do advise group facilitators to discourage groups from giving the "desired" response, those answers thought to be expected by the "outsider."

- Do encourage the most talkative of the participants to direct their energy toward helping others.

- Do use turn-taking or round-robin discussion to ensure maximum participation.

- For personal or sensitive issues, do start by volunteering some information or by sharing an example. Do cite other people's experiences; however, do protect their anonymity.

- Do encourage and explain the need for legible documentation of responses—these will aid further discussion.

- Don't use drawings if only a few participants are skilled in drawing, or if time is limited. Drawings require additional time for presentation, explanation and clarification.

- Don't allow more than 12 members per discussion group, otherwise participation and productivity will suffer

- Don't mix different genders or ages when discussing very sensitive or personal topics.


A modified version of the following question guide was used in an IIRR project to analyze health-related behavior.

Draw a table with four columns. Label the fires column "Practice," the second "Why?" the third "Effect," and the fourth "Action."

Write the practices you want to discuss in the first column. To fill in the remaining columns, ask participants the following questions for each

What is the purpose of this practice?

What is the effect of the activity— financial, emotional, cultural, environmental health, etc.? Is it desirable or undesirable?

What do you do, or who do you consult, when problems arise related to this activity?

Compiled by Andrea G. Sales and Francisco C. Saladores Jr.

Village workshop


Working meeting with the villagers intended to produce specific output.


To produce a specific output. To get inputs and views from as many participants as possible. Village workshops provide a forum for use of other group methods.


Vary with expected output. For example, if you plan to produce a matrix, see section titled Matrix.

Possible approach

1 Define objectives of workshop and expected outputs. Determine activities.

2 Look for site.

3 Inform appropriate persons and get permission if necessary (be sensitive to local protocols and customs).

4 Explain objectives and purpose of workshop and criteria of participant selections. Request village leaders to help you identify suitable participants. The number of participants will depend on your objectives.

5 Select a good venue in the community. There must be enough room to perform planned activities.

6 Invite participants. Make sure nobody is forgotten.

7 Prepare workshop materials.

Workshop proper

1 Introduce yourself and all workshop participants.

2 Explain the workshop purpose, objectives, and the flow of activities. Explain what outputs are expected, how they will be used and how they will benefit the community.

3 Give time for questions and clarification.

4 Conduct the planned activities such as brainstorming, matrix ranking, webbing, etc. (see specific sections for details).

If the group is too large, divide it into smaller groups of five to sex participants, or as required for a specific method. Assign facilitators or ask participants to identify facilitators from the group.

5 Discuss outputs with participants—either help participants to interpret the results or explain the results to the participants.

6 If outputs were prepared in small groups, share these results with the larger group.

7 Close workshop. Thank participants.

After workshop

1 Consolidate and analyze outputs. (In participatory projects, community members should be involved in this step.)

2 Validate results with the community.

3 Leave a copy of the outputs with the community.

4 Use the outputs as planned.



- maximize participation of the community.
- provide a forum for many methods discussed in this manual.
- allow outsiders; to gain insights regarding community dynamics and perspective.
- allow for immediate evaluation of outputs.

Dos and don’ts

- Do make sure that everybody participates.
- Don't let one individual dominate the workshop.
- Do be diplomatic when dealing with dominant individuals.
- Do make sure there is enough space.
- Do make sure there are enough facilitators.
- Do work closely with your local counterpart.

Compiled by Angelina C. Ibus and Evelyn Mathias