ACTION RESEARCHING RAD IN THE FIELD
RAD - Assessing of Local Wellness Psycho-Social Resources & Resilience Following Disasters
Written 2009. Last Updated April, 2014.
RAD is a template that may be used by Rapidly Deployment teams going into areas affected by disasters and conflicts to assess local psychosocial context on the ground and quickly start reporting back to outside support and aid bodies.
RAD has been evolving since the mid 1980s for use in the Oceania SE Asia Region by folk who have been through RAD learning experiences. It may be adapted to other contexts. RAD energy has Laceweb precursors going back to the 1950s that were tapping into Indigenous wisdom of living well with natural environments from antiquity as models for global futures.
This Resource may be used as a flexible guide to action using an action research mode where the Rapid Assessor engages in mutual exchange with locals in exploring what is missing in Local affected people’s wellbeing.
Social Ecology Frame
a) To survive is to fight to maintain relationship to the present reality.
b) To thrive is to use psychosocial wellness, and resilience, as well as natural processes, available resources and emerging resources and motivation to explore, evolve and constitute new realities, possibilities, and choices that in turn nurture future growth and ongoing success.
RAD is framed respecting local affected people taking action for surviving and thriving on their own terms - re-constituting their lives together and their culture and lore in ways of their own making without imposition from outside their culture. This frame is sustained in part by the phrase:
....nothing happens unless local people want it to happen and are fully involved in making it happen....
As defined in Evolving RAD, individual, family and community wellness is a generalized self and mutual perception. A blend of quantitative and qualitative research methodology may typically used. As wellness is a generalized perception, many aspects of the ‘picture’ ‘taken’ by using RAD are of necessity qualitative in nature. Many aspects are quantitative – for example, the number and ages of those involved.
Indigenous psychologies and Indigenous research methodologies of the Region may inform action research. One example of Indigenous methodologies is Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s twenty five Indigenous Research Projects namely – creating, democratising, discovering, envisioning, negotiating, naming, networking, reframing, remembering, restoring, revitalizing, sharing, storytelling, and enabling and fostering proactive action research, structural change and cultural change (refer Smith, L., Tuhiwai (1999). Decolonizing Methodologies - Research and Indigenous Peoples. London, Zed Books Ltd.)
RAD is interfacing and melding together Indigenous ways of engaging with the fullness of the human experience of the Region, with other ways from other understanding framings. In this, for example, Indigenous ‘loving wisdom in action’ may engage with ‘practical wisdom’ as discussed in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. Action may also link in clinical, social and neuro psychology alongside clinical sociology and the sociology of knowledge and all of this with Indigenous psychologies and cosmologies and Indigenous life-way wisdom of the Region. RAD entails action researching intercultural interfacing while action researching local psychosocial wellness, resources, and resilience.
‘Researcher-assessors’ may use what Eisner calls 'connoisseurship', defined by him as 'the ability to make fine-grained discriminations among complex subtle qualities'. For Eisner, ‘connoisseurship’ is 'the art of appreciation'. (Refer Eisner, E. W. (1991), p. 63. The Perceptive Eye: Toward the Reformulation of Educational Evaluation. Stanford, CA, Stanford University)
Adaptations may be made to RAD to ensure it is fitting with local unfolding contexts. Many of the suggested foci in RAD may be irrelevant and some information may just not be available.
This document, as well as RAD and associated documents are transitional. They are constantly evolving and being re-written through prolonged action research in the field in emergency contexts.
There is a Feedback Form attached to the end of RAD enabling users to provide feedback on RAD’s fittingness in their latest context - with suggestions for further adapting it and associated learning experiences.
Each time RAD and the documents associated with RAD are used, assessors, affected locals and others working together are invited to provide feedback on their experience of its use and its implications in the unfolding of support action, including issues arising in their interfacing with NGOs and other bodies, whom may use frameworks that differ from those embodied in RAD and documents associated with RAD.
Some Laceweb folk have received qualitative method co-learning experiences in having the locals actively engaging in completing RAD Assessment including:
a) Data/Capta Gathering - the term ‘capta’ following Peter Checkland, from the Latin capere, ‘to take’ signifies and indicates that we are taking a small subset from an immense number of possible bits of information and acknowledges that any observing is inherently constitutive – hence the origin of the term ‘fact’ from Latin facere – to make.
b) Making sense of the Data/Capta
c) Drafting and re-drafting the Briefing Report
d) Strategically, and socio-ecologically checking this wording and re-wording of the Briefing Report with the affected locals.
This last point is what Lincoln and Guba call ‘carrying out ongoing member checks’ (Lincoln and Guba 1985, p. 308).
It is recognized that the time at the emergency will typically be chaotic. A Lexicon is available with many concepts and processes for working well in confusing, fuzzy, complex, and chaotic contexts.
The quality of the RAD Briefing Reports may be a function of wide, though strategic linking with the local people(s). Typically, the starting place, given adequate briefing of assessment people about security and contextual matters, is with the traumatized local people themselves. Ideally, affected locals are involved in all phases of the RAD data/capta gathering, analysis, sense making, writing, member checks, and re-writing. The concept ‘data’ is explored little later
One must use wisdom in respect of the adequacy of briefings from outsiders - governments, agencies and others familiar with the affected context. RAD users ideally visit and relate with the affected people themselves in refugee/displaced people's camps and sites hosting the populations affected by the emergency. Second and third-hand reports of outsiders are given lower priority. Recall that only the local people know what is missing in their wellbeing.
In some contexts laden with political, ethnic, security, military, and other factors, RAD assessors have to be aware of wide divergence of opinion and bias in reporting. The assessor endeavours to remain neutral – to go for straight reporting of comment and endeavours to obtain as much context as possible to aid understanding of points of view.
The initial focus is support. Once the data-gathering phase commences it’s often running parallel with support - and this is a matter of judgment - caring and support may be interspersed with data-gathering as contexts unfold.
Data gathering is typically also chaotic and spontaneous, taking opportunities as they present themselves. Typically, it is rarely or never a step-by-step logical progression. This notwithstanding, attempts to tee up some planning may assist data collecting and analysis. RAD is more of a memory jogger; it is not a step-by-step linear process. Information may be gathered as contexts present themselves.
As a trust builder and an opportunity to ‘get to know a little of each other’, we may take the time to share very brief stories with locals about who we are and what we are endeavouring to do. This may provide scope for gathering understanding about what may be culturally appropriate while we are visiting.
In many parts of the Region (strange as this may seem to Western people) local folk may rarely use question and answer as a mode of information gathering or sharing. The Question form may really challenge their capacity just as for example, some folks’ trance-inducing storytelling ways may challenge people from outside the culture. Rather, assessment team members may provide hints of themes and then local people may show you how they do things and perhaps go on a ‘walk and talk’. The local people or others may tell relevant stories and link related stories together. Anyone coming in from outside the local context with a whole lot of questions may have locals not willing to engage and perhaps sensing they are being interrogated. One may perhaps tell some of the stories that have been heard since arriving and check with the person or people present if it fits with their experience.
In cases where question and answer is okay and used, it’s worth noting three types of questions:
o Direct How many people are in the village?
o Directive Perhaps you could tell me about unaccompanied children?
o Non-directive Perhaps you can say a little about what’s been happening
A few simple direct questions may get things going.
Starting with broad swooping non-directive questions may leave a person not knowing where to start.
Perhaps start with direct questions, then directive, then move on to non-directive questions. If a person is giving very relevant information with non-directive prompts, one may also use what is termed ‘minimal encouragers’ such as:
o Right – with head nod
o Ah ha
o Go on,
o Oh, what else can you tell me about that?
Most information typically may soon come from what may be termed ‘relational exchange’. The ‘interview’ form is rarely relevant. Once trust is built, and this may occur very quickly, one may enter into relational exchange.
Of these relational exchanges one indigenous person said:
They’re good for different people in different ways. It intensifies communication, that’s what it does. It focuses you. You get down to the specifics of social and cultural communicating rather than just, ‘how’s the weather?
We may move into significant in-depth relational exchange and prolonged engagement by going back a number of times to be with a number of significant natural nurturers for cross checking perceptions gained from many others.
Writing through is preferred rather than writing up. That is, rather than collecting data and writing up later, we may write brief paragraphs as we go and rework and add in new paragraphs so the Report continually changes form till it is sent.
Allow enough time to network to find the most useful and relevant people to engage with. Often the natural nurturers are quiet and move in the background. The focal group spokesperson may be the last person we need to usefully talk to, though cultural mores may require that we speak to irrelevant ‘important’ locals first. Often the local warrior leader types have little understanding of the healing nurturers even among their own people. Natural Nurturers have a very different energy. The community consists of complex relations between many differing archetypal energies such as these.
Processes are available to increase capacity to sense natural nurturers.
While the international professional service providers gather their primary data from outside 'experts' representing agencies of the affected government(s), UN agencies, NGOs and local academics, with every respect, typically these are the people who have little information and the least accurate information about the things that a RAD seeks to specify - that is, the perceptions of the local people affected by the emergency about what is missing in their wellbeing. To repeat, self report of wellness is the best indicator of wellness.
Regarding sourcing information from governments and providing Briefing Reports, in some contexts in the Region, the national government or the national army is the enemy of the afflicted locals. Extreme care is required:
o To remain socially and ecologically nurturing
o To have information never causing compromise and harm.
Ideally, data collecting covers the whole disaster domain - including the central and the peripheral, the urban, the peri-urban, the rural, and the remote.
Typically, the populations from the most impacted area(s) are given priority.
Sometimes the 'size' of the emergency may limit one’s capacity to 'cover the territory' and second-hand and third-hand accounts, documents and reports may have to be used and notes made as to the nature of the source and the limits the team were engaging within.
Media accounts may well be biased and require to be crosschecked.
Rapid assessment is by its very nature an abstraction and it’s very much an art - playing off needs, constraints, threats and opportunities against one another - turning constraints into decision variables and creating opportunities where ever possible. It is possible to do things that make emergence of good things more likely – such as ‘stacking possibilities’ (refer One Fortnight’s Activity in the Atherton Tableland).
The key to quality assessing is accessing the local people and accessing the natural wellbeing nurturer networkers among the locals. Once we find nodal people, typically we are passed along the networks (refer Laceweb Sociograms). Some of the local people typically know who the natural nurturers are, or know someone who does. Often where a considerable number of people are gathered, such as refugee camps or market places, a person with raised awareness and attending competences attuned to natural nurturer ways will be able to see the natural nurturer in the crowd – evidenced by very subtle, though significant cues – the way they move, the gesture, the caring touch, the voice tone, the special way they use their eyes – one begins to attune.
In most cases the traditional information sources of the international agencies will contain little about local wellbeing mutual help.
To quote the RAD Template document:
RAD has been tested under post-war conditions where a Rapidly Deployed Team were able to send out a detailed briefing report within one hour of arriving in the post war zone and two comprehensive briefings a day over a five day stay in the post war zone, with a major comprehensive report being released within one day of return to home country.
One person from high in a global governance entity remarked that the Briefing Reports coming back based on Laceweb processes in the field were like nothing he had experienced before in all his time in global governance. Reading these Reports had him personally experiencing things like he had actually been out there out in the field himself – the writing was so present and descriptive it took him to the on-the ground context - through the vividness and realness of the description and nuance of significant detail and use of the present continuous tense – as if the events are actually happening as at the time of reading .
MAKING SENSE OF THE UNDERSTANDINGS AND KNOWINGS GATHERED
Western Researchers tend to be preoccupied with gathering ‘data’. By this is typically meant individual, separate, separated, and discrete pieces or bits of information that may be quantitative or qualitative in nature that have been extracted from the whole of all that is going on. They may be numbers and measures. Information may be divided up into different categories and sectors for attention of different sectors in Large International Organisations. In this gathering, there may be loss of any sense of the massive connecting, depending, inter-connecting, and inter-depending, that is going on amongst the comparatively few collected ‘bits’.
Local affected people in the Region tend to be holistic in their ways of attending, sensing, meaning making, knowing, and ways of understanding. Indigenous storytelling often has an essential metaphoric weaving together of many inter-connecting, inter-relating, inter-depending (and often multi-causal) aspects. Often understandings come from and are constituted by unity in difference (cleavered unity).
RAD uses research processes adapted to sensing and then gathering Indigenous information, meanings and understanding as in the previous paragraph. ‘Data’ collected may be interpreted through the lens of Indigenous meaning making and understanding.
Analysing and Interpreting Gathered Stories, Knowings, Factored Facts, Understandings, Deep Inter-subjective Reflecting, Data and Capta
1. Assessing wellness of the affected people is a central focus of RAD. Only affected people know what is missing in their wellbeing.
2. We seek perceptions - subjective material gathered intersubjectively
3. Attending to the sense we make of our sensing (perceiving) using a particularly mode of perceiving termed ‘connexity perceiving’ – where the attending notices the simultaneous interconnecting, inter-relating and inter-depending of all aspects in the context as they change from moment-to-moment
4. We also seek objective data - how many people, ages, cultural groups, and the like.
5. We may be hearing subjective and objective biases. Personal history, emotional condition, extent of confusion and overwhelm, intellectual capacity at the moment, and level of coherence can all make a difference. Because of this, objective data may be more or less accurate. It is important to indicate whether information is verified fact, an opinion, hearsay (someone repeating what someone else has said), double hearsay, or a rumour. Passing on of rumours may have wellness effects. Rumours of what has worked are a primary content of healing wellbeing networks in the Region. It is worth recognising that the word ‘fact’ is from the Latin facere – to make. It may be important to find out whose ‘facts they are and who is the factor (maker) of the facts. What different and diverging facts are available?
6. Subjective biases may occur when individuals intentionally exaggerate damage and trauma to get advantage for self and others, and when personal, cultural, and ethnic stereotyping, or prejudices and expectations affect judgement.
7. Subjective biases may occur to protect the image of the government, agency or entity people may represent.
8. ‘Hard’ data may be almost impossible to obtain. The ‘soft’ data is likely to be more relevant. A photo or story of one child’s experience may convey what pages of figures could never convey. A classic example is one of Australian Bush author Henry Lawson’s stories titled ‘Arvie Aspinall’s Alarm Clock’, that conveys in a few pages a potent feel for extreme poverty. Refer Internet Source sighted 2 Feb 2014.
One is then left with making sense of ‘poverty’ in the context of this story. This illustrates the issues in conveying rich meaning to others – knowing yet facing challenges in expressing the knowing.
9. Comparing viewpoints and information from different sources in different mediums may assist in building up a realistic picture of the context, what’s called ‘triangulation’.
10. Gathering poor quality information or if there is a lack of information, if recognised, may itself be relevant information.
11. Local grassroots people and other unofficial sources may be able to indicate whether the lack of some forms of data lies in the chaos of the situation, or lack of support for psychosocial and other domains of wellness, or other causes or combinations of factors among government or other agencies, or may even be an indicator of the lack of acceptance and poor functioning of the assessing team.
12. Gathering subjective reports of wellness may be of itself an aspect of healing. Dr Neville Yeomans at Fraser House Therapeutic Community in North Ryde, Sydney pioneered involving affected people in wellness research into their own behaviour as a healing process. The following is a quote from the book ‘Cultural Keyline’:
Fraser House resident change was linked to the emotional experience of being research subjects. Similarly to Mayo’s work, Fraser House patients and staff were the focus of continual research by Fraser House researchers and the outside research team headed up by Alfred Clark. Patients were being continually asked to reflect on themselves, other patients, other staff, Big Groups, Small Groups and on every aspect of Fraser House as well as aspects of wider society. Through all of this research, patients learned about the difference between quantitative and qualitative research as well as about the notions ‘validity’, ‘reliability testing’ and ‘trustworthiness’, and how these are very useful notions as part of living in a modern community, especially one with extensive pathology. Patients also became involved in both qualitative and quantitative research data gathering as well as in analysing the data and discussing the results and implications of the research.
13. At a certain point it may be useful to begin mapping aspects of the context that are 'black holes' about which nothing is known, as well as mapping the 'grey zones' about which little is known. Also, how much, if any, are black holes and grey holes influencing things in the wider context. They may be very influential and that’s the very reason for absence of information! Doing these things may help determine how much of the total context has been encapsulated in the collected data. Having some sense of what is not in the report, and drawing attention to this absence in the Report may be very useful for discerning people sensitive to implications and being able to notice what may be important because of its absence.
DRAFTING AND RE-DRAFTING THE BRIEFING REPORT
1. Check with members of the Rapid Deployment Team regarding possible obstacles and error.
2. Give segments of drafts to relevant locals for their review – what is termed ‘member check’.
3. Be sensitive about what material is shown to differing groups.
4. Have the differing people check the material relating to themselves and their people.
5. Our involvement is to contribute to wellness not detract from it.
SUMMARY COMMENTS ON THE BRIEFING REPORT
Following RAD assessing, the Context Briefing Report covers firstly matters that reduce wellness - aspects of the assessment necessary to set the context.
Secondly RAD reports the affect of the disaster or conflict on wellness in the various domains of wellness, including:
Thirdly, reporting on what things the affected local people are already doing to address their own wellness needs and what psychosocial and other resources they have to support this.
Fourthly, suggestions for actions that may support what is already happening in the affected area and add what is missing.
The assessor on the spot makes the judgements. How can I create a useful picture in a couple of days?
There are enough questions in the RAD Template and enough enormities in the situation to have a 100 people reporting for months. The Template themes are only guides to action.
What the RAD Briefing Report strives for is the essence of what may support outsiders working well with local affected people without collapsing or compromising local way.
The responses relating to the more significant questions and themes are generally placed first in the Report.
RAD assessors have around two days to orientate and support and 2-3 days to assess and write up – to create a picture, a feel – so we can tell others what to expect and fast-track their on-site effectiveness. Ideally reports are also being sent within a few hours (or less) of arrival and throughout the first two days.
We repeat again, assessing wellness is an art and it can be done very well with extra-ordinary artistry.
We have people of wellness artistry already experienced in this in the Region and part of the RAD Assessment Team Pool.
We also have well evolved processes for setting up learning experiences preparing natural nurturers for the RAD Assessor – Report Writer role.
Other RAD Links: