Module 4 Field Work and Listening: Going out/in the street and opening up to people


To the extent that the processes are not the same, we do not have to exclude any of the techniques within our reach, as long as they are at the service of the objectives built in a participatory way at the beginning.

Quantitative research or studies use the survey as a fundamental tool for collecting, analysing and presenting data, and they do so using figures and percentages, statistics, etc. It is useful when learning about “accounting” aspects of reality and collecting people’s answers to certain questions to later operate with them (add, subtract, multiply). But it does not allow delving into why such or such things were said, in the motivations and strategies, such as the following approaches.

The qualitative approach aims, for its part, to give prominence to the person or group with whom the conversation is taking place and to collect their opinions and images regarding the social reality that is intended to be known. This approach aims to delve into what motivates people and groups, going beyond the most common first opinions that occur to anyone.

The participatory approach can combine various techniques from the above, but usually gives priority to operational workshops and collective construction of knowledge and action. For example, you can start with some technical devices, such as those already mentioned, to establish a starting point, and then use interviews or “qualitative” groups to go deeper, or even if required, you can do some quantitative consultation. The fundamental difference with the two previous approaches lies in what the information is collected for. A participatory process entails the return of information to the same population so that, duly supported by adequate techniques, it is this population that deepens, prioritizes and plans its own strategies for improvement.

Although there are a multitude of techniques, we propose here some whose handling is relatively simple and which are appropriate to be put into practice by anyone who participates in the process with a minimum of information and prior training, without it being necessary to be a Social Sciences professional (which, on the other hand, makes it possible to break the barriers that usually exist between people of different professions and people from the area, associated or not).