Bringing Findings Back by Summer Lindsey, AC4 Graduate Student Fellow
People prefer to punish rape and stealing more severely, but wife-beating less severely in the wake of armed conflict. This is what I found from implementing a series of 80 focus groups with a local research organization two years ago in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. This summer, in 2018, I returned to work with the same colleagues to ask some of the same communities about their interpretation of the findings.
What immediately stood out was the unusually high levels of engagement among the population in discussing the findings. For the first time, people were hearing feedback about their own communities that was directly related to the time and effort that they had spent being surveyed. Members of the research team, having been so involved in implementing the study, were also enthusiastic to engage.
We need to remind ourselves about the extractive nature of research. Most of us ask a lot of questions, take people’s time, and give little back. Sometimes it is because we are busy; sometimes, we are apprehensive about local receptiveness; other times, we feel that it makes us look more like outsiders in the setting. I don’t study a comfortable subject and the receptiveness of local communities to hearing about this research and engaging even more, underscores the need to follow up and bring our findings back both to communities and to the people we work with.
Author: Summer Lindsey is doctoral candidate in the School of Arts and Sciences at Columbia University with focus on political science. Her research focuses on questions about armed conflict and its effects on human security, particularly on violence against women. As a fellow, she travelled to South Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo, spending time in two villages meeting with community members as part of her qualitative work.
All photos are taken and provided by author.