In response to the challenge of doing in-depth, face-to-face research during this pandemic, Empatika has been exploring alternative approaches including using remote methods. Based on our team’s initial brainstorming (which also included some sharing sessions with Pulse Lab Jakarta), trials in May, and now with partner support, Empatika has begun work on a two-phase remote qualitative research study. The study will use a flexible mix of explorative and participatory remote research tools in order to gather insights on the COVID-19 situation in Indonesia from people’s perspectives over a six-month period.
Another unique aspect of the study is that participants are families that Empatika researchers have stayed with during previous research studies (dating back to 2015!). This means that researchers are contacting people that they already have relationships with, in most cases through immersion studies where the researchers spent at least four nights living in these families’ homes and experiencing their daily lives alongside them.
Given the constantly changing conditions during this pandemic, insights directly from community members themselves can be pivotal in understanding the shifting needs and challenges during this time, including those that might be struggling the most. The study will provide in-depth stories about people’s experiences and perspectives, along with insights into how and why certain behaviours and changes are occurring. Insights like these can also help to complement or explain findings coming from other assessments (both quantitative and qualitative).
In total the study includes over 40 families across 24 districts of Indonesia (from Aceh to West Papua), mostly from rural areas but also a few living in peri urban or urban communities. For the initial stage of the study, team members contacted most families via phone calls in late May, and then again in August. This first phase was oriented as a listening phase where researchers reconnected with families and explored contextual changes and general impacts of COVID-19 (particularly from May to August), but let family members talk about the particular issues or issues that they were most interested or excited in discussing. At the end of these conversations researchers also asked for families’ consent in sharing insights from the conversations and sought their interest/willingness to participate in the next phase of the study.
Although using remote interactions, we are still keeping in mind many aspects from how we conduct immersions, including active listening, having two-way conservations, respecting people's time, and giving them space to speak and share to the extent that they are comfortable.
A few of the key insights from the first listening phase include:
After this initial phase of phone calls, in Stage Two our team will continue interactions with families over three rounds. These rounds will focus in more on particular topics (one primary topic per round) and include different, flexible sets of participatory activities and tools, such as video/photos diaries, voice diaries, photojournalism, participant-led interviews, and others. We are excited about the flexibility built into this upcoming stage and look forward to experimenting with different remote tools.
It has already been a fruitful experience to be able to get insights from across Indonesia through conversations with families that have been excited about catching up with our researchers and sharing their experiences. We hope that this study we can also show some of the additional benefits of building these types of relationships with study participants. We look forward to sharing more soon!