I am rather close to completing the Mixe…

I am rather close to completing the Mixed Methods Research Module that seems to represent the primary product of my internship. The previous version (the second draft) of the module was reviewed by my supervisors and returned to me with some mixed reviews. While they felt that the structure and important touchstones of the module were present, the primary concerns seemed to be with my language choice, with the absence of examples, and with explicating some of the strategies for approaching mixed methods projects. In the ensuing weeks, I spoke with some people at SFCG who had been in the field about their experience with mixed methods design. My co-intern, a former participant in SFCG’s International Internship Program in Sierra Leone, pointed me to some documents on monitoring and evaluation for SFCG’s radio programs in that country. These documents revealed a strategy that combined qualitative research in the form of interviews and focus groups with target audiences with quantitative research that was based on the subsequent data. Perfect! So I integrated this example, along with a number of non-SFCG examples to address the second issue.

The language concern dealt with my use of “academic” language and the probable audience. This issue vexed me. First, the academic language was partially a result of the way in which I’ve been taught to communicate formally over the last seven years and partially a reflection of the manuals and books from which I got much of my own guidance on mixed methods research. Nevertheless, I should have been conscious of my audience. Rather, it should have been made clear who the audience is. Once this was made clear, I remained in a difficult position. The audience has a range of educational backgrounds from very, very little formal education (usually for some local “Searchers” who have not been afforded many educational opportunities) to graduate-level professionals. So the question is, “how to be understood by those with less formal education, yet respected by those with more?” The question remains unanswered. I took out some more technical terminology and reworked some sentence structures, but the decisions on language use need to be discussed among the ILT team, potential users, and even the funders of the project (primarily USIP, I believe).

Finally, the particular strategies were not difficult to elucidate. I should have gone more in-depth with triangulation, etc. in the first place. I also added some visual aids in the form of circles and arrows. Those types of visual representations of processes and designs are of little help to me personally, but may help others (and seem to be favored by my boss) with different learning styles. I have yet to receive formal commentary on the reworked module, but the preliminary response of my direct adviser was quite positive. In the time between submitting that module and receiving commentary, I began a new project working with some indicators for monitoring and evaluation. The project is so very unclear to me that I feel I’m fumbling along in the dark. I have been asked to compile indicators from various organizations into a single excel document. I am left with more questions than answers. What is the point of this document? Who will use it?

I feel that this has been a common theme during this internship. I feel improperly oriented to what I’m doing and a bit alienated from any sort of end product. It is understandable that this would be the case in nearly any internship, especially in an NGO headquarters. But if I understand the origins, context, and implications of the work I am doing, I imagine the work I produce would be significantly higher quality.