Association pour l’anthropologie du changement social et du développement
Association for the anthropology of social change and development

Research pure and consultancy. How to deal with them through an anthropological approach? Some self-reflections based on fieldworks in sub-Saharan Africa

Auteur(s) : Colosio Valerio ;

How can we navigate from our work as researcher on anthropology and consultancies activities such as impact or project evaluation? How to combine the anthropology need of long fieldworks and the effort to understand and use emic categories and frame the research according to local agendas and meanings with the strict requirements and aims of consultancies with NGOs? How anthropological skills and experiences can be valued and used in very short evaluation mission? In this paper, I explore my own experience as PhD researcher in Social Anthropology and consultant for various NGOs projects, in Chad and Zambia. I conducted my PhD research in Central Chad between 2014 and 2018, funded by an ERC grant; and I realized 4 different consultancies in Chad (3) and Zambia (1) aimed to evaluate different NGOs projects and their impacts. In the paper, I first summarize the need and challenges of the two different typologies of research, focusing on the meaning of Anthropology and the basic requirement to do a proper anthropological research. I then describe the practice implementation of an impact evaluation and a project evaluation, exploring the difficulties for me, as anthropology, to respect the ethical and qualitative standards of an anthropological research and, at the same time, fulfill the request of the NGOs in term of specific data and evaluation. Moving from this, I critically reflect on the effective capacity of an anthropological analysis to grasp and represent the point of views of the different local actors; and on the different constraint I encountered, as a consultant and as a researcher. Are these two activities totally unrelated and radically different or structure of some grants and the progressively tighter timetables to finalize researches are making these two activities more similar, reducing the capacity to really implement an emic approach and develop original theories? How can my competencies as Doctor in Anthropology critically enrich activities like the project evaluation where the room of agency of the consultant is deeply constrained by the requirements of the donors? Through this paper, I try to critically assess both academic anthropological research and consultancies aimed to assess development projects; and to open a dialogue between two activities that are becoming progressively more entrenched for young, precarious researcher who need to find practical applications in order to fund their own researches.

Mot-clé : Anthropology - Project evaluation - Impact - Qualitative methods

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