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Three tips from enumerators to improve data collection

Paul Omondi 18 August 2022

IDinsight Associate Jenna Amlani with an enumerator and school administrator at Kinyamasika Primary School in Kabarole, Uganda. ©IDinsight

 IDinsight often recruits enumerators on short-term contracts to help with data collection. In such cases, feedback, both positive and negative, is important as it helps break bad habits, reinforces positive behaviour, and enables teams to work more effectively towards their goals. 

Earlier this year, we conducted a process evaluation of Raising VoicesGood School Toolkit – an intervention to reduce violence against children that has been implemented in approximately 1,000 primary schools in Uganda. The evaluation involved in-person data collection activities for three weeks in the Luwero and Kabarole districts of Uganda, with two weeks of training in Kampala. Our data collection team was composed of one Field Manager and six enumerators. As part of our best practices in data collection, we developed an end-of-project exit interview form to collect feedback from our enumerators which enabled us to document key learnings and areas of improvement for future projects. 

The exit interview form was sent to the field team a few weeks after they had concluded data collection and transcriptions. In this blog, I share three key learnings based on the responses submitted by enumerators who worked on the project.

1. Even when enumerators had a positive experience, there is always room for improvement

When we asked our enumerators about the likelihood of working with or recommending others to work with IDinsight in the future, all of our survey respondents replied in the affirmative. However, we found there were still areas for improvement. 

When asked to rate IDinsight’s approach to data collection on a scale of 1-10 (with ten being the highest rating possible), 40 percent of respondents gave us a 10, as shown in the bar graph below.

Overall, the enumerators reported that good teamwork was exhibited throughout the project and that IDinsight engaged well with the schools. The team further felt that they were well-trained and hence confident to work on the project. Some of the positive feedback we received from the enumerators were on how we:

  • Communicated regularly: Due to the pandemic and associated lockdowns and restrictions, we had to delay our data collection activities multiple times. To ensure our team was updated at all times, we regularly communicated with them via email, keeping them in the loop at every step of the way. 
  • Created opportunities for skill development: We ensured that our enumerators had the opportunity to interact with students, teachers, administrators, and parents during data collection, which helped them develop their skills in working with children and adhering to child protection guidelines. Not only did we include opportunities to showcase their skills, but we also provided them with mentorship and learning from the experiences of other talented teammates in the project through our training modules and daily debrief sessions. 
  • Catered to the needs of the team:  We made sure our enumerators did not have to worry about their meals, transport, or accommodation. We additionally provided our enumerators with per diem payments to cover their daily expenses. To further look after our team’s health and welfare, IDinsight’s COVID-19 protocols were followed.

While the responses above were encouraging enough, our aim in administrating this survey was to delve deeper into not only what we, as temporary employers of enumerators, did right, but also how we could improve our enumerator experiences in the future. Some recurring feedback we received from our survey participants were to:

  • Budget more time for data collection: The length of a project or data collection depends on a host of factors; given past project experiences, our team budgeted a certain amount of time for data collection (in this case, three weeks). However, some enumerators felt that having more time would have been helpful
  • Tailor our questionnaires: As our project was aimed at primary school students, it was challenging to conduct interviews with questionnaires that used words/phrases unfamiliar to students, mostly due to cultural/geographic reasons. Further, as most students were from rural areas, they were unable to express themselves freely and were shy. We realized the importance of tailoring interviews to the intended audience – in this case, primary school students, by using culturally-relevant language and phrases.  
  • Increase pay for transcribing:  Transcribing interviews is always a much more time-consuming process than conducting interviews. While IDinsight does its best to set fair payment rates for both data collection and transcription, some of the enumerators on the project desired higher pay during the transcription phase.
  • Paying enumerators ‘in cash’:  Some enumerators were not comfortable having their meals and accommodation paid directly to the hotel. Instead, they suggested that they be given the cash to pay for these services directly and keep the balance for other uses. Enumerators who were commuting from their homes to the training venue were also unhappy that they didn’t receive the same level of per diem as those who had travelled to Kampala for training due to IDinsight’s per diem guidelines.

IDinsight will take this feedback into consideration when planning logistics and designing questionnaires for future projects.

2. Equip your team with the right tools and technology 

The majority of enumerators felt that they received sufficient support and adequate resources to enable them to carry out their duties, including voice recorders, interview guides, protocols, consent forms, and face masks. However, we did receive suggestions to provide our enumerators with project phones as opposed to having them rely on their personal phones to ensure the safeguarding of data. Some enumerators further expressed the need to provide them with laptops during fieldwork to reduce the burden of having to share laptops when typing notes and transcribing. 

Some enumerators suggested that the daily targets set by our team were difficult to achieve, though most were successful in meeting these targets.

3. Always ensure your team feels respected 

To ensure we incorporated a Dignity lens in our data collection, we asked the enumerators if they felt respected during their fieldwork. The results indicated that 100 percent of respondents felt respected, which was exciting news for us.

Some of the reasons listed were that:

  • IDinsight staff was constantly with them in the field and willing to offer solutions to any/all of their concerns. 
  • Providing tailored feedback immediately after each interview boosted their confidence and minimized mistakes in subsequent interviews. 
  • Staying in the same hotel as the Associate reflected a feeling of camaraderie, which was highly appreciated.

The team also overwhelmingly agreed that their feedback was appreciated as all concerns raised during debriefs were adequately addressed by the project team. 

Without soliciting this feedback, it may have been difficult for us to know some of the concerns our enumerators had with the project. The inability to address these concerns for future projects could potentially negatively affect a team’s effectiveness and morale. 

We hope that all IDinsight project teams that contract short-term enumerators can ensure the continuous gathering of feedback from these enumerators in order to ensure that any issues that are raised are adequately addressed in subsequent projects. Additionally, as we continue to build on our best practices in data collection, some of the feedback may be key in enriching our Primary Data Collection Manual and even org-wide policies.