Evaluation methods used by Edge Hill University for a Sports Equipment Project operating across the UK and Ghana highlight the potential value of text messages for international development communication.
When researchers Iain Lindsey and Jimmy O’Gorman were contracted by UK Sport to evaluate a project designed to develop proposals for the manufacture of sustainable sport equipment in Ghana involving collaboration between students in universities in the United Kingdom and Ghana, they knew they faced a challenge understanding the perspectives of Ghanaian students given that travel to the country was not possible within the scope of the evaluation.
Dealing with the distance
Overcoming these challenges, they attempted to develop innovative methods by which the Ghanaian students could contribute their views to the evaluation. Initially, they suggested that students could create video diaries or write about their views on the project in emails. However, undertaking ongoing interview conversations by text message proved to be a successful method of communication across the geographical divide.
Using text messages
Ghanaian students liked the idea of contributing to the evaluation by text message as this was a form of communication that they already used regularly and it overcame problems of access to the internet and email. Students were given a small honorarium to cover the costs incurred.
Lack of depth vs instant results
While there were occasional limitations in terms of the depth of text message conversation, this method of communication holds promise for future research and practice in international development. Iain explains “we think text messages could be really useful in keeping in touch with participants in overseas programmes on an ongoing basis. Through regular texts, participants can give live updates on programme progress as well as their experiences”.
A full version of the interim evaluation report on the Sports Equipment Project is available here.