English law or judges?
In his review of Thomas G. Weiss’s book entitled Multilateral Development Diplomacy in UNCTAD (March 1987 issue of Finance & Development), Sir Joseph Gold observes that “the anthropologists of the law have taught that in primitive societies law is often secreted in the interstices of procedure.” Surely, the latter part of that statement is attributable to an English judge of the last century—and he referred to English law.
David J. Appadurai
Sir Joseph Gold responds:
I relied on my recollection of the source of the statement. I thought it had been one of Sir Henry Maine’s conclusions about primitive law, but you may be right. (Perhaps we are both right.)
Listening to the People
I read with interest Lawrence F. Salmen’s article, “Listening to the People,” which appeared in the June 1987 issue of Finance & Development. As a marketing academic for the last 17 years, I have always told my students that listening to the market is a prerequisite for market success. In fact, the whole field of marketing is based on the philosophy of understanding and tracking market dynamics, i.e., buyers, in order to offer to the market a better product (service) relative to competition.
The news that the Bank first supported the use of participant-observer assessment on an experimental basis in 1982 came as a shock to me. I urge Dr. Salmen to convince the Bank to hire more marketing consultants because their business is, in fact, “listening to the people.”
Over the years as a consultant, I have used a version of the qualitative research technique which you describe as participant-observation. In marketing, we call it the “focus-group interview” in which groups of up to 10 people are interviewed (or a single individual at a time). Such interviews rarely last over two hours which is considerably less than the time frame Dr. Salmen reports in his article. Frankly, I find the six and a half months’ average period cited in the article to be rather lengthy. Of course, I have never interviewed the rural poor in developing countries, but I have some experience in interviewing the rural and urban poor in Canada.
I realize that the participant-observation method has a very different time frame than the focus group method. Business firms which use focus groups are generally very eager to see the results from such market studies as soon as possible. Based on experience, I don’t think a firm would wait six and a half months. Of course, the motive behind such studies is different in the World Bank than in a private firm. But is it really that different?
In any case, I really enjoyed your article and I’ll make sure to read your book. I find applying research skills to such worthwhile causes to be very necessary. Without hesitation, I would welcome such a challenge, and I’m sure many of my marketing colleagues would, too.
Dr. Robert D. Tamilia
University of Quebec at Montreal
Mr. Salmen responds:
I share your amazement that the World Bank did not support extensive work in participant observation of development projects before 1982. I believe, however, that no other major international development institution has historically supported this kind of work either.
The development community has not addressed the cultural aspects of its work adequately for two major reasons. Many development professionals are economists, far more comfortable with abstract, deductive thinking than the grounded, inductive mode of analysis of this approach. Second, the social scientists whose training most closely fits this “listening to the people” skill —anthropologists and sociologists —have established a reputation for producing work of a largely descriptive nature which often has little utility for decisionmaking. Perhaps what is needed, as you suggest, is to bring more marketing people into development.
Regarding time frames, individual interviews, in fact, average close to one half hour. Focus-group interviews, as you indicate, are longer, but seldom exceed two hours. The six and a half months’ duration for the average beneficiary assessments conducted to date breaks down as follows: one and a half months for finding and training field personnel, three months for field work, and two months for report preparation. While this time may be cut by a month or two, it is not too long for purposes of development managers. Problem-specific inquiries, still using qualitative methods, could, of course, be done in shorter periods of time.
Participatory approach advocated
I found the article by Gottfried Ablasser entitled “Issues in Settlement of New Lands” in the March issue of Finance & Development quite interesting. In the last paragraph, he discusses the handing over of the project to local authorities after the grant period. With regard to turnover, I would like to say that our experience has shown that it should be the residents or project beneficiaries who should be trained to take over management of the project when it ends. Government agencies are not likely to be very interested because of budgetary constraints or increased work loads. Furthermore, because the beneficiaries are the actual resource managers, a lot of the responsibilities would be turned over to them. A participatory project approach thus would be the most attractive form of project management so as to ease the turnover shock.
Sol L. Ebarle
Dumaguete City, the Philippines
Procedures as obstacles
I read with interest the article entitled “Fostering Enterprise Development” in the March 1987 issue of Finance & Development. I agree with the authors that to foster enterprise development, it is necessary to create first a positive business environment. The policy to help entrepreneurs is encouraging, but procedures adopted to help them may be discouraging and thus the entrepreneurs face difficulties in putting their projects into action or making them profitable.
Ravi R. Singh Mehta