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Qualitative Research for Not-for-profit organisations – Webinar Summary (part 2)

On 17th of October, ESOMAR Foundation hosted the third webinar of the series Qualitative Research for Not-for-profit organisations. The webinar showcased real stories of recent qualitative research, and how it worked to help NFPs to achieve their objectives.

The online event was hosted by Phyllis Macfarlane (GFK & Esomar Foundation) and featured Simon Patterson, Founder and CEO at QRI Consulting and Philly Desai of UK-based international development consultancy Turnstone Research.

Philly presented a case study from Voices for Change, a UK AID programme in Nigeria which focuses on challenging discrimination against women and girls. The study aimed to identify the key influencers and opinion leaders of young people using an innovative approach for mapping social networks, offering new ways to impact on young people’s attitudes and behaviours.

Voices for Change focused on shifting the attitude on gender discrimination in Nigeria 

The Voices for Change programme focused on 16-25 year olds in four States of Nigeria – Kano and Kaduna in the north, and Enugu and Lagos in the south. We used a range of approaches to shift attitudes on gender issues, including direct work with young people; mass media approaches; and working via key influencers, such as religious and traditional leaders. It was this last area – using social networks and influencers – that my session focused on.

During the project design phase, our literature review suggested that religious and traditional leaders were influential on both young people and the parental generations. However, we wanted to check whether there were other people who might have a greater influence on young people, so we conducted a series of workshops in Enugu, south-east Nigeria, to explore this issue. We convened eight sessions of around 10 young people aged 16-25 and we asked them who was influential in their lives and opinions. Each young person drew a map of their social network, and then they introduced us to some of their key influencers. We interviewed these individuals, to find out about their attitudes and their openness to partnering with Voices for Change.

Who were the influencers?

The young people identified a wider range of influencers than our literature review had suggested. Religious leaders were important, but these might be youth pastors, local religious teachers or leaders of fellowships at college, rather than senior leaders of the church or mosque. Traditional rulers, surprisingly, were rarely mentioned. Informal influencers such as college lecturers, older brothers and sisters, the peer group, employers and workmates were also important. However, they can be difficult to identify as they are not found within traditional structures, such as the Church, NGOs or youth groups. Those in university had wide social networks, whilst those who were working had a more restricted range of influencers. This showed that one-size fits all approach would not work.

Based on our research, we made several changes to our strategy for influencing young people. We partnered with specific networks focusing on youths, such as the Girl Guides and National Youth Corps; we moved away from commercial networks such as Unions, towards informal groups such as football clubs; and we introduced selection criteria for the young people who took part in face to face work, to ensure that a proportion was well-connected in religious or student societies.

What’s the key takeaway?

No matter how good your literature review and how sound your strategy, you need to talk to your beneficiaries directly to find out what they really think, feel and do – and qualitative methods can help you do this.

About the author

Philly Desai is a senior researcher with over twenty-five years’ experience working on communications and behavioral change projects. For the first twenty years of his career, Philly worked mainly on government research in the UK. Recently he has been involved in projects in Africa (Nigeria, Malawi, and Zimbabwe), helping to design and evaluate international development programmes. The projects he developed and implemented covered health, crime, transport, security, gender equality, and private sector development.

Following the presentations, there was a live Q&A session. The whole thing was recorded, so you can watch it on demand. 

ESOMAR Foundation will be continuing the series with a new webinar on 28th of November – so watch this space for more details!


Watch the full webinar


EF webinar 26 July: What different Qualitative Approaches can be used to achieve various objectives?



ESOMAR Foundation believes that a fair, just and peaceful society is deserved by all and recognizes the immense promise that the research community offers to those striving to achieve these goals on a global level. We bring volunteers and resources together to execute projects and provide financial support to help and support charities and NGO’s to achieve their aims. In this second webinar of the series, the speakers will identify and tackle different  Qualitative Research Approaches for Not for Profit organisations which can be used to achieve various objectives.

Experts from the NFP world and market research agencies will share their experience of using ethnography to bring to life the situation (e.g.) Street Invest’s work to change donors and the public’s perception of and attitude to Street Children. Using Focus Groups and In-depth interviews to develop the actual communications and get the best out of media strategy. Making the best of online qualitative approaches and present new opportunities that technology offers the NFP sector, whilst also mentioning the limitations.


The webinar will feature

MODERATOR Phyllis Macfarlane A lifelong market researcher currently working on the GfK Verein’s University Cooperation Programme to improve the quality of education in Market Research in Africa and China.


Sonia Whitehead is the Head of Research at BBC Media Action, the international charity of the BBC that uses media to inform, connect and empower people around the world. She has worked there for 11 years and has specialized in conducting media research to develop content and evaluate its impact. This work has ranged from understanding people’s perceptions of climate change across Asia and exploring gender-related issues with people living in conflict in Syria, Afghanistan, Darfur and Somalia. Before that Sonia worked in market research both in the UK and India.


Georgina Day joined StreetInvest in 2016, after six years in advertising and CSR communications, working on household brands including Dove, Ford, Virgin Media and Amnesty International. She made the move into the charity sector to see how she could apply her experience to driving positive social change. Georgina combines analysis, strategic communications thinking and creative execution, to tell meaningful stories about StreetInvest’s impact and to build the organisation’s profile.


Edward Appleton is Director Global Marketing and Sales with Happy Thinking People. Edward has worked for over 20 years in market research on both agency and client side. Prior to his current role, Edward was Senior Insights Manager with Coca-Cola in Berlin; before that he was European Insights Manager at Avery Dennison. His career started many moons ago with Mass Observation UK, which he left to join the Insights team at Nestle UK. He blogs regularly at www.researchundreflect.blogspot.de and for Esomar.


26 July 2018, 17:00 CEST