Skip to main content

Table 2 Lessons learned during the baseline process

From: Back to baselines: measuring change and sharing data

When/Where Lessons
When making the case for the baseline and in the early stages of design • Ensure partners have ownership
• Be aware of the difficulties in finding a suitable balance between the need to implement quickly and the ownership of multiple stakeholders
• Remember that quality is closely linked with ownership of the process
• Negotiate early regarding whether the baseline is to consider attribution or contribution. This has drastic implications on the design and implementation of the baseline. Contribution is a more realistic aim
• The existence of an ex-ante Theory of Change is key to negotiating scope and details of the design and implementation of the baseline. The Theory of Change needs to be made explicit early in the process, ideally jointly with the partners
• Be aware of people who at the stage of designing instruments provide input but have limited experience of collecting information in the field
• Be aware of multiple and over-ambitious information demands and the need to negotiate the scope of the baseline. The resulting baseline will inevitably be a compromise with all its disadvantages
• Work on building a core team including expert methodological support. External statistical support was useful not only technically but also for helping to manage partner relationships
• When baselines are implemented later in the process and you know your partners and your sites, it can be a good tool to build partnerships: for longer term meaningful participation of key stakeholders in research programmes and partnerships with communities themselves as key research partners and to empower them as key development actors
At implementation stage • As soon as the study becomes moderately complex the core team needs to assign the function of documentation and data management to an individual. If the study is large and complex a small team may be needed for this task
• Sampling design is a process that requires compromises and trade-offs. Do not assume that it can be done by one person using only statistical considerations
• Make sure there are management tools that the core team can use to provide incentives for good work and penalties for bad work
• In complex studies with multiple partners and data gathering activities, ensure that someone is given responsibility for systematization and learning
• As part of the planning process, identify specific information products, allocate responsibility for their production, and set clear deadlines
• A baseline is expected to have a follow-up in the middle or distant future. Document and store information assuming that you personally will not be involved in the follow-up. If you are, you will be pleased you did; if you are not, the objectives of the baseline will have a chance of being achieved
• In the communities, be mindful of being open about intentions, possibilities for future participation, and spaces for interaction. Be aware of not wasting people’s time and make an effort to provide longer-term outcome oriented incentives for community engagement with the programme
In the field • Train more people than you need for the field work. Offer contracts only to those who prove to be capable during the training process
• Select teams with the appropriate level and type of skills. We found a trade-off between level of experience and lack of time versus less experience and enthusiasm
• Invest in training and building capacity of field teams
• Field test thoroughly. Study designers must participate in the field testing activities
• Sort out technical questions as early as possible, such as definitions, sampling frame, and sample size
• Be aware of the requirements imposed by your choice of technology, such as the use of mobile data capturing devices such as smartphones. This has consequences on staff, skills, security, design, and data security that should not be underestimated
• Finding field teams that are good at report writing is difficult. Developing the capacity of long-term partners in both areas is key to getting good fieldwork and suitable reports. Do not underestimate the difficulties in this area
• Field team support: the provision of training, field manuals and reporting formats is important but not enough. Support through appropriate supervision and engagement during the analysis of the information collected is also needed. Allow enough time for report writing immediately after the information is collected in every study site
• Give community members the space to participate on their own terms, including time and opportunity to question CCAFS or the baseline and to discuss/ask questions
• Be mindful to respond to local conditions and not intrude in community space. Take seasons of heavy workload into account, consider local holidays, and so on