2.4.2 Grouping, ranking and comparing

Participatory techniques that involve grouping, ranking and comparing are also useful to an EAR researcher. These techniques can allow you to explore how people categorise things, what they feel included in or excluded by, how their priorities, lives and experiences compare with those of others. Here we will demonstrate wellbeing grouping and educational ranking.

Wellbeing grouping

This technique involves participants grouping together the characteristics of households according to wellbeing. This is often best done with around 6-8 people. This should lead onto a discussion about the livelihoods of different households and how they cope. This will also allow you to discuss what criteria places someone in each category. Through this you will build an understanding of what makes some people better off and what makes other people poor in this place, according to these people. Being poor might be characterised not in terms of income, but in terms of ownership and access to land, number of children, health, and so on.

You can explore your findings further by getting participants to draw a community map to see how this looks spatially. By combining these techniques you will find that you are developing an understanding of who the poor are in this place, what makes them poor here, what services they access and where they live.

Educational ranking

This is a simple technique that allows us to quickly assess educational attainment and can be used to stimulate a more in-depth discussion about education, educational access, and the problems of low levels of literacy or numeracy. It simply requires participants to place marks along a line to indicate the level of education they achieved. This could also be done with a family or with a group.

This ranking technique can also be used for understanding the health situation of people - where you would have a line with 'well' at one end, 'unwell' at the other, and ask participants to place themselves on that line. You could then add to this by asking 'what would you need to move you towards better health' therefore using the technique to open up a discussion around issues such as services, for example.