Qualitative Inquiry

In today's computer-oriented society the tendency is to reduce information into quantitative chunks that are computer digestible. Qualitative Enquiry for Rural Development successfully imparts the importance and applications of qualitative data and is of particular relevance for policy makers, project planners and rural program developers. The book explores how to improve the information-gathering process. Although the authors stress the value of qualitative information, they recognize that quantitative data is necessary for scientific research, and stress that a combination is optimal for development. The book is well-organized and illustrates points through highlighted case studies and informative tables.

Qualitative data is based on observation and open-ended questioning and does not necessarily translate to numbers. Data is gathered from key informants through open dialogue rather than from set questions, and relies on indicators rather than measured coefficients. Information is derived from multiple sources of varying quality and is judged on content and the credibility of its source. Qualitative data acquisition relies heavily on the insights and interpretive skills of the investigator.

The need for quantitative information exists both within development institutions and at the community level. Qualitative Enquiry suggests that institutions address issues such as motivation, initiative and staff and community morale. They must assess the effects of previous development efforts, money management techniques, leadership traits, inequalities, factionalism and corruption. Such factors are important to the success of any project.

Current development programs based on the project cycle are obsessed with time limitations, measurable goals and the logical framework. They center on quantitative findings for the sake of bureaucratic convenience. However, in light of rapidly changing situations in developing countries, qualitative enquiry can provide broadly correct, timely information for those agencies which strive to remain action-oriented, flexible and cost-efficient.

Moris, J. and Copestake, J. 1993. Qualitative Enquiry for Rural Development, A Review. London, UK, Intermediate Technology Publications. 117 pp. ISBN#1-85339-215-4. US$21 in USA, US$20.75 outside USA.

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Reluctant Partners, NGOs and the State

Growing attention from academia, the development community, the media and society signifies the increasing importance NGOs are playing in international development. How NGOs will participate in cooperative relationships with governments in the future is the focus of Reluctant Partners, an overview volume to a series of four, summarizing three regional studies coordinated by the Overseas Development Institute.

The book acknowledges the legitimate shortcomings of the state in its attempts to aid rural poor and describes NGOs' potential in filling "the missing link." In a 'pros and cons' format, Reluctant Partners analyzes the state's organizational structure and compares it to that of an NGO. The book does not elaborate on the course of action state-NGO collaborators might take toward sustainable development. More simply, the authors pose questions regarding NGO-state relationships and their possibilities.

Starting with a definition of NGOs and a clarification of their relationship with the rural farmer, the reader is taken through the problems of state hierarchy and management to the hesitant resting place where neither the state nor the NGO can accomplish its goals alone. Tables and specific examples taken from on-site experiments help illustrate the advantages and disadvantages of both organizations.

For those interested in the political and organizational structures of international development institutions, from extension worker to politician, this book offers an insightful glimpse to the possible future.

Farrington J. and A. Bebbinton with K. Wellard and D. J. Lewis. 1993. Reluctant Partners?, non-governmental organizations, the state and sustainable agricultural development. Routledge, New York, NY. ISBN# 0-415-08844-5. 246 pp, cost: (Hb)US$60.40 (Pb)US$19.61.

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