Researching the impact of NGOs on local business

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The following is a guest post by Cara Kennedy, PhD, one of our long-time friends and partners:

In mid-July, Haiti Partners began collaborating with Vijaya Ramachandran, senior fellow at the Center for Global Development to assess the impact of the post-earthquake NGO presence on Haitian private sector entrepreneurs. After selecting and defining the boundaries of the neighborhood to be sampled in Port-au-Prince, a team of six surveyors drawn from Haiti Partners’ network was trained to use the survey instrument, adapted from a survey used by the World Bank in several other countries worldwide.  The survey was adapted to focus specifically on the impact of the earthquake on the small and informal business sector in Haiti, entrepreneurs’ experience restarting their business in the aftermath of the earthquake, and the effect of NGO presence, aid, and distribution of goods on small businesses of diverse types.

The team participated in a 5-day training in which they had the opportunity to work with the survey instrument, role-play with teammates, and pilot test the instrument in the field. Based on their pilot testing and feedback, we revised the instrument to better assess the Haitian post-earthquake context. The team is currently in the field, surveying over 250 small business owners of diverse types and will wrap up their data collection on August 15.

As the coordinator of the survey, I have had the pleasure of training and supervising the team of six, and also of pouring over their data each day as they return their forms to the office. I can say without reservation that this team is excellent—their dedication, skill, and commitment to the success of this sensitive and challenging work under difficult conditions have been encouraging and inspiring. This is not simple work, and the team has mastered both the 14-page survey instrument and the delicate approach to building trust in a situation where mistrust is to be expected. As I hear the team’s stories when they return from the field, and read the stories of the business owners that have been gathered, I recognize what an honor it is to serve with the team as an intermediary for the voices of the small business owners—shoeshines, sugar cane distributors, peanut butter producers, salesmen and women of dry goods, cooked food, cold drinks—whose voices rarely reach the level they will through this work.

The Center for Global Development, leading this investigation, “works to reduce global poverty and inequality through rigorous research and active engagement with the policy community to make the world a more prosperous, just, and safe place for us all.” The stories we are learning from the business owners—of their tremendous losses in the earthquake and their determination to begin again, of their desires to grow and expand their businesses to be able to better care for their families—are stories that must be heard, and we are grateful to the Center for Global Development for asking to hear them and for their commitment to use this research in their advocacy and policy efforts. Haiti Partners’ network of highly skilled and dedicated professionals is making it possible for these voices to carry. It has been a delight and an honor to work with these men and women!

The survey team.  From left: Christaniel Issalem, Wilmont Jean, Frantzie Cyril, Marie Kerline Janvier, Jasper Theodore, and Joseph Sylvestre

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  • Vijaya Ramachandran

    My thanks to Cara Kennedy and Kent Annan for carrying out this fieldwork. I hope that we can shed some light on how to improve the delivery of services to the people of Haiti and also in other disaster-relief operations. I look forward to our continued association as we analyze the data and share results with the broader community.

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