One of the hardest things about doing research on poverty can be finding people for follow-up visits, especially in urban areas like Accra, Ghana, where I work. As a rule Accra has no helpful signs, street names, or addresses. Directions are based on landmarks, whose defining feature is usually that it's something old -- the types of things that are obvious if you've lived there forever, but make no sense when you're new to the city. The resulting irony is that the most expensive thing about our research can be the time spent finding people to research.
I just finished piloting a survey for the Returns to Business Management Consulting project, and was often in awe of their abilities. A good surveyor can say nice to meet you, shake your hand, and five minutes later have you saying things you wouldn't share with a spouse. When I first started here, I often thought my surveyors knew a respondent from their “schooling days” (as we say in Ghana) – but when asked, their response was invariably, “No, I’ve only just met him.”
A funny thing is happening these days in Northern Ghana. After months and months of planning, we are almost at the point where we give 200 farmers actual cash to use on their maize farms. As with many of IPA’s research projects, the participants are selected at random. In other words, we’ve surveyed 500 farmers about their farming practices, but only 200 will receive capital grants.