What is it?
Data collection tools are specific techniques designed to collect primary data – i.e. data collected directly from first-hand sources through interviews, surveys, observation, etc. – and encourage joint analysis, learning and, in some cases, action.
What can it be used for?
Data collection tools can provide relevant quantitative and qualitative information to plan, implement or monitor an intervention. Because they are focused on specific information needs, participatory tools support evidence-based analysis and action. Additionally, they facilitate partnership, empowerment, capacity development, effectiveness and efficiency.
When can it be used?
While different data collection tools may be used at different stages, they are generally used in combination to ensure triangulation and therefore reliability of the data collected. Table 1 presents information on specific participatory tools organized by level of participation expected, intervention phase and type of communication entailed.
Table 1: Data collection (Participatory) tools matrix
Level of participation
Phases of the intervention path
Source: Adapted from the Tool matrix presented in Participatory approaches: a facilitator's guide, Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO). 2004. Figure 12: Toolkit matrix.
Who can use it?
- EU staff and relevant partners in charge of intervention design and implementation
- Independent experts in charge of external monitoring and evaluation
What are its strengths?
See Table 2.
What are its limitations?
See Table 2. PRACTICAL APPLICATION
Participation may take various forms depending on the nature of the intervention and the roles and responsibilities of the stakeholders involved. The nature, scale and scope of the intervention, as well as the context, will orient the choice of the tool/tool mix. This should be based on a realistic estimation of what is feasible, and of the skills and capacity of participating stakeholders. Examples of criteria could be:
- Specific data needs
- Setting, reachability of stakeholders
- Resources availability (financial, time…), implementation time
- Availability of qualified local experts,
- Capacity development needs of local implementing partners
Table 2: Summary of the most used data collection (participatory) tools
Group creativity technique aimed at collecting the broadest possible range of options on a proposed subject, that are then (jointly) evaluated, and the best option selected.
A gathering of people working on a common problem or task with the aim of resolving issues and building consensus for action.
Similar to a workshop but generally shorter and with a more didactic function of imparting information through speakers and panellists; participation is limited to question-and-answer sessions.
Allow knowledge on a specific topic to be increased in a very focused manner, and therefore in a relatively short time.
Application of lessons learned is left to participants, who generally have no further opportunity to engage with speakers; ideally, a seminar should be followed up with a workshop.
Field visits are particularly relevant for EU Delegation staff, as, according to KPI 19 of the EAMR, at least 80% of an EU Delegation portfolio should be visited at least annually.
Usually conducted jointly with development partners and/or other sections in the EU Delegation, field visits enable first-hand knowledge of an intervention's activities, results and issues, and typically comprise other participatory tools such as interviews, focus groups and direct observation.
In practice, operational managers may have limited time and resources to perform field visits, particularly in instances where security considerations exist.
MODERATE – HIGH
A facilitator-led gathering of a small group of participants representative of the stakeholder population for a particular intervention to elicit perceptions and promote mediation across different interest groups on a given topic.
A gathering of independent experts to primarily (but not exclusively) elicit technical conclusions and recommendations to support analysis of a specific issue, on the basis of given criteria and a work plan.
Data collection method aimed at building knowledge (generally linked to behaviours or opinions) on a specific group and topic, with data collected through a population sample targeted by the intervention.
Structured dialogue, generally performed at the individual level, which can be used to collect a broad range of information supporting the design or evaluation of an intervention. Three main types of interviews can be carried out:
Qualitative research method allowing data to be gathered by observing people, physical objects, events, processes, behaviours, actions and interactions
See Table 2.
Tips and tricks
- The selected mix of participatory tools should be at a fairly homogeneous technical level, adapted to the stakeholders concerned, the level of information required and the context. For example, it is pointless to use sophisticated tools if the necessary information cannot be obtained with satisfactory precision – or if that level of precision is not needed.
- The wider the scope and questioning, the greater the risk of loss of focus. However, a well-structured participatory tool can facilitate the collection of broader information which may enrich organisational knowledge.
Where to find it
Complementary guides, methodologies and tools
My INTPA: Knowledge Management Tools and Practices
The European Commission, 2022. Participatory Leadership Guide
The European Commission. Directorate General External Relations. Directorate General Development. EuropeAid Co-operation Office. Joint Evaluation Unit. 2006. Evaluation methods for the European Union's External Assistance. Evaluation Tools. Volume 4. (Summary available at Capacity4dev. Evaluation methodological approach).
The European Commission, 2019, Guidance on internal monitoring for results
The European Commission, 2004. Aid Delivery Methods. Volume 1. Project Cycle Management Guidelines.
The European Commission, 2019. Guidance, Tools and Good Practices for EU operational managers for Interventions Financed by the European Union within the Framework of its External Assistance. Internal Monitoring for Results.
The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / The World Bank, 2007. Tools for Institutional, Political, and Social Analysis of Policy Reform. Chapter 9. Micro-level analysis. Page 182.