120228 Brief Ethnographic Interviewing Manual

Manual on Brief Ethnographic Interviewing:
Understanding an Issue, Problem or Idea from a Local Perspective

Jon Hubbard, PhD, LP The Centre for the Victims of Torture (CVT)

The brief ethnographic interviewing methods described in this manual were originally developed for use by NGO’s providing psychosocial and mental health interventions to address two recurring needs - how to quickly and systematically gather and organize information (needs, problems, beliefs, strengths, etc.) when
implementing programs with new populations or communities or develop culturally relevant indicators for evaluating the effectiveness of psychosocial and mental health interventions.
The technique involves using a brief semi-structured interview, framed around a question, to systematically collect information on a specific topic of interest from a community or population. The responses collected with the interview become ‘data’ which can be summarized through a variety of human and/or statistical means to identify common underlying themes. The technique can be applied for a variety of purposes including:
Rapid needs assessment: Brief ethnographic interviewing can be a useful technique for quickly and systematically gathering information from on an area of interest, such as how people prioritize their current needs or conceptualize war related distress.
Creation of new assessment or program evaluation measures: The brief interviewing technique can be used as a method for collecting a random sample of response data from a community which can be used, along with other available sources of information, when creating program evaluation indicators (e.g.,
identifying local idioms of distress). Because these indicators are based on unfiltered comments from members of the community they tend to reflect local ideas and beliefs more accurately than those included on measures imported from other places.
Field validation of existing measures: Many times program staff would like to use, or adapt an existing measure as a clinical assessment tool to evaluate change in behaviors, attitudes or distress levels among the population receiving their services.