The project methodology is a form of dynamic public reflective equilibrium. It builds on the approach developed by Wolff and de-Shalit in their 2007 book, Disadvantage. The advantage of this particular methodology is that it takes as its starting point the idea that disadvantage is plural and inter-locking and it focuses on the perspective of the marginalised themselves. That is, it gives voice to the marginalised and takes seriously their knowledge of their own situation.
A key part of this project has been the adaptation of this methodology in the context of Rwanda and the HMP community in particular. We wished to see whether a reflective methodology could be used in a context of severe socio-economic deprivation and illiteracy. The methodology worked well, given these difficulties. More information about the methodology and our experience of working with it is available in the final project report.
The interviews of members of the HMP community were conducted in two waves: a 20 interview pilot study that allowed us to test and refine the categories; and an additional 80 interviews. The participants were drawn from a cross-section of the HMP community and were selected on the basis of location, age, gender and level of education. A third wave of interviews was conducted with strategic actors at the local and national level, such as sector and district leaders. The purpose of these interviews was to discuss with key actors how they view HMP marginalisation and what barriers they see as key in perpetuating that marginalisation.
The methodology uses semi-structured interviews based on a conversational format, with the questions as a guide for the interviewer but not a rulebook. The interviews ranged from 2-4 hours in duration and were audio recorded; a number of interviews were also filmed where the participant gave additional consent to being filmed. The overriding goal of the interviews was not to collect information about the living standards of the participants – much good information on their living conditions already exists – but to cause the participant to reflect on their experience of marginalisation and to articulate on what they needed in order to live a good life. In particular, we wanted participants to set priorities by ranking the three most important things that they need; they were further asked to state which actors should help them to realise those needs. Participants were encouraged to push back against the framework of the questions by reflecting on elements of their lives that they had not been asked about. A test question was used to establish the extent to which the participants were engaging in a reflective process.
The interviews were transcribed and then translated into English. The translated transcripts were checked by bilingual project staff, with a focus on consistency and terminology. The analysis was conducting used grounded theory and following deductive reasoning. On the basis of the pilot interviews, a set of codes were identified and then refined.
The interviews were conducted by six interviewers with experience of working within HMP communities. The interviewers were trained in a rigorous two-day training prior to the commencement of the pilot study; an additional training session was organised with project staff after the review of the pilot findings based on an evaluation of the interviewers’ work.