QIS: a new participatory management tool to assess and act on field reality

One of the main problems to assess the achievement of the MDGs is the paucity of reliable data and statistics that reflect field reality, especially of the poor. With successive waves of decentralisation, district authorities have been made responsible for poverty and gender specific information on coverage, use and sustainability of water and sanitation services, at community level and district levels. Participatory methods are essential to give all members of village communities the opportunity to influence scores, and also to make informed choices during planning, and control quality of implementation. However, such methods are time consuming and often generate qualitative information that is difficult to compare and analyse at district or national levels. To address these problems, IRC developed, together with the Water and Sanitation Program (WSP), the Methodology for Assessment (MPA) to assess sustainability of services and to generate gender and poverty specific data. (Mukherjee and van Wijk, 2003). Based on the methodology, IRC along with AJ James has now developed Qualitative Information System (QIS), which is a flexible system to store and analyse qualitative data for monitoring progress and adaptive management at both project and community levels. Although QIS has the potential to contribute to a more effective use of qualitative information, the challenges of preserving quality when using participatory methods as well as the reliability of the data collected remain concerns to be addressed. The paper presents a number of key concerns and introduces a set of criteria to ensure quality of both the participatory processes and the data collected.

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