2. Frame your research
A framework for your research will guide throughout your research process, and the framing document you develop can also serve as a concept note to advisors and partners, and a funding proposal to potential donors.
Before conducting any research:
Your research framing may evolve over time as you refine your questions and gather new information. However, building an initial research framing will allow you to work from a solid foundation.
To create a strong foundation for your WITM research, it is important to clarify what you hope to accomplish.
For example, one goal of AWID’s WITM global research was to provide rigorous data to prove what we already knew anecdotally: that women’s rights organizations are discrepantly underfunded. With this data, we felt we would be better positioned to influence funders in their decision-making.
Your goals could be to:
- Generate hard data on funding realities and trends to prove or disprove existing myths.
- Gain deeper insight into differences between the perspectives of donors and women’s rights organizations.
- Influence donors in grant-making.
- Add crucial input to key funding debates.
- Explore collaboration between donors and women’s rights organizations on issues that emerge from the research.
Frame your research process with key questions that only your research can answer and limit those questions to a specific time frame (e.g. past five years, past year, etc.).
Consider the following points:
- What exactly do you want to learn more about and what is the hypothesis you would like to test? Writing this out will assist you in your thought process.
- Is there existing research on this? If research already exists, it may not make sense to conduct new WITM research unless you feel like the existing research is not extensive or specific enough.
- What time frame do you want to cover in your analysis? For example, will your research analyze only the past year, or several previous years, such as the past five years?
- Are you planning to repeat your survey to collect data in the future?
Choosing a specific timeframe for your research can result in more precise findings than working with an open-ended timeframe. Also, deciding whether you will repeat this research at regular intervals will allow you to set up data collection benchmarks for easy replication and comparison over time.
These were the key questions that guided AWID’s WITM research process:
- What is the current state of women’s organizations’ financial sustainability across the world?
- What external and internal trends are impacting donors’ funding decisions to support women’s organizations and movements?
Type of data
Now that you determined your key questions, you can determine what kind of data will help you answer your key questions. This will allow you to plan the rest of your schedule for your WITM research.
For example, will you conduct a survey that covers an extensive portion of your priority population? Will you analyze the applications that funders are receiving from a certain region? Will you also conduct interviews (recommended)? By determining the types of data you need, you can reach out to external parties who will provide this data early on, and plot out your full schedule accordingly. Some suggested sources of data could be:
- Surveys you create for women’s rights organizations and donors
- Application and grantmaking data from donors funding cycles
- Interviews of prominent activists, organizations, and donors
- Donor data from membership organizations and networks, such as the Foundation Center, regional or national donor affinity groups.
Diverse data sets are a great way to create robust and rich analysis.
The data from AWID’s 2011 Global Survey formed the backbone of our analysis in Watering the Leaves, Starving the Roots report. However, we also collected data from interviews and interactions with several actors in the field, ranging from donors to activists and women’s rights organizations.
In addition to allowing you to set your schedule, creating an initial plan of what products you will develop will also allow you to work out what resources you need.
For example, will you only produce a long research report or will you also create infographics, brochures and presentations? Depending on your products, you may need to hire a design firm, plan events and so on.
These products will also be the tools you use to achieve your goals, so it is important to keep those goals in mind. For example, is your WITM research exclusively intended as an advocacy tool to influence funders? In that case, your products should allow you to engage with funders at a deep level.
Some sample products:
- Long report for dissemination with key funders and organizations.
Historically, AWID WITM research has centered on a long report, from which AWID distilled other smaller products - see rest of list.
- Infographic for viral distribution online
- Short animation demonstrating key findings
- Short brochure(s) distilling your findings and messages
- Articles and blog posts on key findings to draw interest to your larger report
- Seminars or webinars presenting key findings.
Conclusion: Framing your research will give you the big picture
Framing your research to cover goals, key questions, types of data, and final products will allow you to create a well-planned schedule, prepare your resources in advance, and plan a realistic budget.
This will make interactions with external partners easier and allow you to be nimble when unexpected setbacks occur.