Volume 32 - Article 12 | Pages 369–396

Working with teams of "insiders": Qualitative approaches to data collection in the Global South

By Enid Schatz, Nicole Angotti, Sangeetha Madhavan, Christie Sennott

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Date received:10 Jun 2014
Date published:06 Feb 2015
Word count:7671
Keywords:Africa, Global South, health, insiders, population, qualitative study, team


Background: The convergence of two qualitative methodological strategies - working in "teams" and with "insiders" - can facilitate access, efficiency, and insights into research questions of interest to demographers. Even though this approach is becoming more common among population researchers in the Global South to address a range of research questions, little has been published that describes the method and critically assesses its strengths and weaknesses.

Objective: We draw on three projects embedded in the Agincourt Health and Socio-Demographic Surveillance System site in rural South Africa that integrate both approaches to demonstrate the benefits and limitations of this strategy.

Methods: We document, through in-depth description, how these three projects achieve access, efficiency, and insights into issues of population concern (HIV/AIDS, aging, and child wellbeing) utilizing a "team-insider" approach by working with groups of local research assistants.

Conclusions: The projects vary in their use of "teams" and "insiders" but collectively deepen our understanding of pressing population concerns in the Global South. In particular, by using teams of insiders, these projects gain insights into local ideas about HIV, uncover ways that HIV affects older women's lives, and provide in-depth understanding of children's social connections. The approach also presents a number of challenges, however, such as grappling with the responsibilities and burdens that are placed on local insider team members.

Author's Affiliation

Enid Schatz - University of Missouri, United States of America [Email]
Nicole Angotti - American University, United States of America [Email]
Sangeetha Madhavan - University of Maryland, United States of America [Email]
Christie Sennott - Purdue University, United States of America [Email]

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» Comparing, Contextualizing, and Conceptualizing: Enhancing Quantitative Data on Women's Situation in Rural Africa
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