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Post-conference musings by Giel Ton (LEI)

July 19, 2010

I am in the train that takes me to Utrecht. I am checking the World Development latest issue…. “this research shows that beneficiaries have a 16% change to get out of poverty”…. My destination is ICCO….”We want to help reduce poverty through improving the farmer organisation’s  financial and economic conditions”…“. I try to grasp the econometric argument, while I feel it would be better to prepare an open mind for ICCO’s particular information needs. I have been working with these farmer organizations for six years in the past. Now, I work on a PhD research. On them. With them. In all their diversity and internal complexity.

I am Torn Between Two Lovers… excited…. over-stretched….

Academics are not really interested in conclusions but primarily in the methodological ways to get to them; most practitioners are interested in answers on relevant questions without bothering too much on the way evidence is collected to answer them. My way to balance these competing claims is, first, checking the information needs, clarifying the evaluative question. And than, for each of type of evaluative conclusion identify the most obvious ‘threats to validity’. The questions a ‘critical insider’ can be expected to pose when he/she wants to reveal the weak points in the evidence or reasoning. That exercise often makes clear that one data collection method is insufficient. Mixed-methods are needed. Checks on critical assumptions in the methodology have to be added to the research design.

The train suddenly stops. No railway station near. As usual, the trains’ schedule proves to be contingent on other trains’ punctuality. Real life is complex. Has always been complex. Nothing new in that. I get my bag and take the Sage Handbook on Case-based Methods………  where the twain shall meet…….. searching methodological rigour embracing complexity.

Giel Ton (researcher, LEI)

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