To describe the field-level challenges, effective strategies, and key lessons learned faced while conducting multi-site formative research
Systematic documentation of staff experiences while developing an infant and young child feeding program with micronutrient powder (MNP) began in 2014 during early planning, and extended through 2015 during formative research. At each stage, program and study staff shared documents, discussed experiences, and detailed individual lessons learned to compile an aggregate list of recommendations to share with other similar programs. Using thematic analysis, categories and sub-categories were created from the master list in order to organize recommendations for clear communications in dissemination.
Not only potential barriers, but also effective strategies unique to conducting qualitative and ethnographic research emerged from this process. The findings were organized into 3 primary categories: 1) Personnel Challenges & Opportunities; 2) Field & Research Logistics; and 3) Realities of Stakeholder Engagement. In northern Nigeria, working during Ramadan, conducting qualitative research with multiple language barriers, and hiring qualified data collectors to explore maternal and child nutrition, all proved to be challenges. Ensuring that data collectors doing qualitative interviews also did transcriptions/translations, building flexibility into research activity timelines, and collaborating with a local university for support, were effective strategies to collect credible data within timelines and budgets.
Research plans are only as good as their implementation. This documentation exercise highlights the need for nutrition practitioners to be pragmatic and creative during implementation research in West African settings such as this one.