KIT Royal Tropical Institute Health is strengthening the capacity of action research within different AMREF Health Africa programmes.
Taking action on action research
In 2009 and 2010 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands implemented a capacity development process within the nomadic youth reproductive health programme for MSF1.
This was followed by a project from 2011-2014 in which strengthened the capacity of participants to develop and implement action research proposals. The goal was solving priority research problems in order to improve maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) in hard-to-reach areas of Tanzania, Kenya and South Sudan (EU) and the access of women, girls and children to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services in Northern Uganda, Northern Kenya and Tanzania (DANIDA and AUSAID).
Applying a consistent approach
This work includes a series of research workshops over an 18-month period. The approach used a series of participatory workshops to develop a consistent approach. The process became:
- starting from priority setting
- writing mixed methods research proposals
- developing qualitative and quantitative research tools
- applying for ethical approval
- training research assistants
- data collection and cleaning
- qualitative and quantitative analysis
- writing reports, books and articles, and
- dissemination of findings
The process created many opportunities for individual and collective learning and growth, which were in addition to the improvement of research skills. The studies resulted not only in reports and a book, but were also used to inform the second MFS2 round of funding. The studies in the EU and DANIDA projects are ongoing and their findings will be disseminated in the coming years.
Visible commitment by AMREF management is crucial for successful participation, sustained interest and capacities gained by research participants. Research participants or teams, on the other hand, benefitted hugely when ownership of the research agenda, a learning attitude – combined with full participation in all aspects of the research cycle – was prevalent. The relevance of the approach, content, areas of research, the priority the institution/organisation places on it, and whether this serves and contributes to the overarching aims of the project at large, is key to its success.
We often work with participants familiar or somewhat familiar with quantitative methods, and to a lesser extent with qualitative methods. In an evaluation of the data analysis workshop one participant wrote
“I have been involved in research and analysis of quantitative data more than qualitative, and this has really opened my eyes. I am looking forward to completion of the report and publications.”Female participant with a statistics background In Uganda
Another participant said of the project,
“‘Now I feel that I am not only able to develop a proposal and conduct [action] research using qualitative methods but also train others.”Male medical practitioner in Uganda