Nov 19, 2020

Flexibility and adaptability while working in challenging contexts

The nature of Exigo’s research and expertise means that our team frequently operates in challenging and volatile environments, including in conflict and post-conflict contexts, areas with poor infrastructural capacities, and during precarious economic and/or political times. These backdrops provide the impetus for our socially relevant and project-driven research and analysis - but they also at times create obstacles in our fieldwork. Exigo has, over the years, developed solutions and practices to mitigate risk, ensure the safety of our employees and participants, and fulfil our data objectives.

For example, Exigo has conducted a large number of projects during widespread social, economic, and political upheaval across many regions. Our fieldwork team has been frequently confronted with practical issues such as widespread demonstrations, roadblocks, and authorisation delays, as well as increased sensitivity around certain topics on which we are collecting data.

To mitigate the negative impact and potential danger of these limitations, our team country teams have adapted to the contextual circumstances by: 

  • Improving communication and flexibility at the client, managerial, and field level to report on, respond to, and work around any security incidents or delays in objectives
  • Finding alternative means of data collection to avoid blockages and danger - for example, increased virtual or telephone-based Key Informant Interviews (KIIs)
  • Maintaining a flexible schedule and meeting points with colleagues and Focus Group Discussion (FGD) participants
  • Constantly looking to widen our network of capable local field staff and recruit locally - to avoid longer travel distances, maintain familiarity with local sensitivities and security threats, and gain access to key stakeholders at the community level. 

Rapidly changing contexts - for example, around commodity prices in Lebanon - can also quickly limit the relevance of findings and recommendations in some contexts. As such, Exigo has learned to know when to balance the need for thorough and in-depth investigation with time constraints and quick movement.

Exigo aims at placing its research skills where they are most needed - and, often, this is in some of the most dangerous areas of the world. Prioritising the health and safety of our employees requires strong risk assessment capacities, ongoing monitoring and evaluation of security contexts, excellent communication across teams and individuals, and knowing when to adapt, postpone, or cancel data collection trips.

Example: COVID-19

The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic has created a challenging context across the world, including in the field of data collection. Exigo’s commitment to implementing the “do no harm” principle, preventing the spread of disease, and maintaining the safety of our field employees and participants - while also carrying out our work - has pushed us to devise and implement stringent health and safety measures, as well as developing the whole team’s overall technological capacities. During this time we have, for example, piloted virtual FGDs and discovered new and dynamic ways of communicating - not only with colleagues and clients, but also with those from whom we are collecting data and valuable information. See our full measures here.