Activity 5.1 B
Assess research feasibility
This activity will help assess your learning objectives and potential contextual and resource constraints that might impact results.
A good research feasibility assessment should consist of three core components:
- A clear statement of the learning objectives of your pilot.
- A context assessment which identifies the drivers, barriers, opportunities and constraints that characterise the operational context.
- A resource audit which identifies the different types of resources available to you to carry out the research and learning activities.
Misalignment between these three components can result in a Research and Learning workstream that at best fails to deliver or at worst, could result in unintentional harm.
Taking stock of these factors will help you to make appropriate decisions around which frameworks, methods, tools and techniques to use in fulfilment of later milestones. Below we outline and describe each key step, and provide ideas for exercises, activities and tools to carry out this work.
Assess Capacity and Constraints for Research
The level of research and evidence gathering you can carry out is clearly dependent your capacity, and on any constraints of the context (eg, logistics or security challenges). Both of these areas therefore need to be assessed in order to establish the feasibility of your Research and Learning workstream.
The evidenciary standards you are aiming for in your learning objectives will determine the resources and capacity that you will need to have in place, or vice versa. It takes considerable expertise, time and resources to conduct research responsibly and effectively. You will need to assess all the inputs and resources required to achieve the evidence standards that you set, including:
- Human resources : The relevant expertise, skills and capacities you can hire, commission or bring into your team, and the number of individuals you can dedicate to research and learning activities.
- Financial resources: The amount of money you can allocate towards research and learning activities.
- Time: The period of time you have to deliver research and learning outputs and fulfil key milestones, and the number of person-hours you can dedicate to this work.
- Material resources: The physical equipment and material capital you have at your disposal to execute on key research and learning tasks (eg, relevant software and hardware equipment or physical space by which to host events and other activities)
- Institutional capital: The social and political capital you can mobilise towards fulfilling your research and learning objectives (eg, the political leverage you might acquire by being associated with a UN agency or host organisation with a strong local reputation).
Reflect on the resources you have at your disposal by carrying out an audit of the relevant financial, material, human and institutional capital that can be utilised to deliver your learning objectives.
Humanitarian contexts are often characterised by insecure, rapidly changing, politically constrained and uncertain environments driven by conflict, rapid-onset natural disasters, chronic-crisis and long-term displacement. These environments present a range of challenges which will determine the kinds of primary research activities that are feasible.
For example, while approaches to collective storytelling through participatory video techniques may be suitable evaluating a women-led, social entrepreneur programme in Nepal, these very same techniques may raise considerable concerns around the safety, security and well-being for conflict monitors in Myanmar. The following factors will enable or constrain your ability to conduct field research during the Pilot stage:
- Security conditions: The set of conventional and unconventional threats present for your team, your partners and the crisis-affected community you hope to reach with your solution.
- Access: Your ability to access users, target groups and other stakeholders which may be limited due to government directives (eg, travel restrictions) or geographical proximity (eg, hard to reach, remote areas);
- Culture: The socio-cultural and political features of the environment that your team will be stepping into may mean that some methods are more appropriate than others.
- Infrastructure: The physical and digital infrastructure may drive or constrain your ability to conduct work.
Review the Humanitarian Contexts briefing and assess what types of constraints may affect the security of your team, the protection of crisis-affected community members (particularly those who are most vulnerable), as well as access, culture and infrastructure.
Reviewing your learning objectives, evidentiary requirements and capacity and constraints will help you make appropriate decisions around what research and learning approaches, methods and tools you are able to use, and whether these will enable to you reach your learning objectives.
We recommend that you bring together all the information you have gathered with your team and determine whether the learning objectives you are seeking to meet are feasible. If they aren’t, you will need to recalibrate your learning objectives to align with what is feasible.
Remember: if you can only feasibly gather evidence on learning objectives that you have already met, you should not waste resources generating further evidence that you do not need.