Taking results back to the community: 3 reasons why it matters
It’s easy to lose sight of the purpose behind the research or get lost in the numbers. But after two weeks of extensive conversation about the endline research results of the Gender Roles, Equality, and Transformations (GREAT) Project – a project aiming to promote gender-equitable attitudes and behaviors among adolescents (ages 10-19) and their communities in northern Uganda – I feel re-energized. Last week we had our first local dissemination meeting, sharing qualitative and quantitative research results from GREAT interventions with the local community in Amach sub-county of Lira District. I was moved to hear how GREAT came alive in the people in the community, and how the lessons from the project affected their lives. Hearing them process and reflect on the outcomes of our work over the past five years was one of the most rewarding moments of my career.
It can be challenging to find the time and resources to go back and share research results with the communities where you work. But more than ever, I’m convinced that it matters. Here are three reasons why:
Because making the results accessible and relevant is powerful.
When people see themselves and their communities in the results, they feel engaged personally and motivated to join efforts to bring about change. That’s why we tried to simplify and personalize the results of complex topics like changes in gender-based violence, family planning use, and inequitable gender norms. We led an activity where color-coded cards were distributed throughout the room. We would use the cards to represent certain percentages, like 65%. “65% of boys in your community who were exposed to the GREAT intervention help with household chores.” This is compared to the 53% of boys who were not exposed to GREAT. So, seven people would stand on the right, representing boys exposed to GREAT, and three people would stand on the left, representing boys who didn’t help with chores. Participants seemed to really “get” the results (and they laughed a lot at each other), which helped to translate numbers to real people.
Because it means ownership.
As researchers, we hope that people will own the projects we work on and feel inspired to carry on our efforts. In Amach, this is happening. People are embracing the concept of “being GREAT” as more than a project. Rather, it has become something to strive for: “I am GREAT,” “You are GREAT,” “Together, we are GREAT.” This became clear from the stories told at the community meetings that affirmed our survey results. A woman stood up to proudly say that she used family planning to care for her family. A young man described in detail how he cooks food when his sisters are busy with school work or other chores. They each saw themselves as “Oteka [GREAT]” and it brought them joy to share their stories and own the GREAT experience. They expressed a sense of responsibility to see that others in their subcounty became Oteka, too.
Because it means leadership forward-momentum.
Often, local leaders appreciate the projects that come to them, working so their community gains the greatest benefit. With GREAT, we’ve seen local leaders assume GREAT as their own mission or agenda; rather than an initiative that well-meaning visitors brought to them. The subcounty speaker, local councilor, and community development officers stated their profound commitment to sustaining the changes they witnessed. Many were already including GREAT activities into their strategic program plans for the coming year, sharing results with other development partners, moving within their communities to talk about their experiences, and encouraging local structures and committees to continue their efforts despite challenges. A young policeman who had recently moved to the area and was observing all this for the first time remarked how motivated he was by the results he heard—he was ready with his own ideas about including GREAT activities in his own plans when he visits schools to talk to students about the risks of alcohol and unprotected sex.
Now that I’m stateside again and back in the routine of emails and meetings, the memory of these community meetings keeps me focused. In the day-to-day tasks of research, I have hope that the data we generate will truly make a difference in people’s lives.
More details about GREAT Project results will be available soon, but for now, check out some databites on Twitter and join the conversation at #GREATProject.