First Call: Preparing for an unprecedented situation
We had already prepared most of the face to face Round 6 household survey, originally scheduled for this year, when the pandemic hit; instruments had been drafted and piloting completed in Peru and Ethiopia before the world changed completely. For the new phone survey, we wanted to adapt our own survey instruments as closely as possible in order to keep the consistency of measures that we have been monitoring across previous rounds, whilst ensuring we capture the most important impacts of the COVID-19 crisis.
There were some key restrictions guiding how we compiled the content of the survey:
• Some important measures just cannot be taken over the phone (e.g. anthropometrics, or mathematics tests); or, are not designed to be administered over the phone (e.g., Likert scales).
• Phone surveys are more tiring for participants, so we had to make sure that each call is as short as possible (see the discussion on JPAL’s best practices for phone surveys page).
• We had to consider new ethical issues given that many people are living through an extremely stressful time. We needed to ensure our questions would not be unduly upsetting, and if we have to ask sensitive questions, that we also have protocols for fieldworkers on what to do in cases where participants become upset, and have information to hand in order to advise them if needed. The team also has to be prepared to deal with immediate emergencies that arise due to the lockdown situation. Marta and Gina Crivello, our lead qualitative researcher, are writing a blog about some of the ethical issues that the pandemic is raising for longitudinal research including ours– watch this space.
We took a number of important/critical steps in developing the phone survey:
• We consulted surveys – already developed by the academic community - some of which were aimed at internet users, some for phone surveys (International Coronavirus Survey, JPAL Covid-19 response team, Inter-American Development Bank, World Bank LSMS team, Gender Innovation LAB, Wellcome Trust) to help us work out how to capture information on the effects of the new and rapidly evolving global pandemic, and to ensure comparability.
• We did a pre-pilot in Peru under the guidance of our Fieldwork Manager Sofia Madrid, who has been with the Young Lives project since the very beginning, and has drawn on her wealth of understanding to advise us on how participants may understand the questions, how to make the interview `flow’ more smoothly, and how to introduce complex and challenging topics.
• We sought rapid ethical approval from Oxford University (ODID)’s Ethics committee, as well as in each of the countries, and developed the fieldworker manual and protocols which had to be much more detailed, partly because communication and training is more difficult done remotely, and also because of the tight timescale for this virtual survey. Training took place over zoom in Peru (pictured above), and with social distancing measures in place in Ethiopia, India (see below) and Vietnam. Each enumerator has been provided with a smartphone with an internet plan together with a pair of headphone and a tablet used for the survey administration.