Research-Focused Capacity Building in Gaziantep:

There is broad consensus that capacity building lies at the heart of international development. Capacity building describes a process aimed to “bring a nonprofit to the next level of operational, programmatic, financial, or organizational maturity, so it may more effectively and efficiently advance its mission into the future”.

When done well, capacity-building is comprehensive, continuous, participatory and sustainable.

Capacity-building at HAD: Including a research focus

HAD has been providing capacity-building to organisations in the development and humanitarian sector for over 5 years. Since 2017, the Academy has been supporting the capacity building of Syrian NGOs that work on humanitarian aid and development in Syria and her neighbouring countries.

As one of the only organisations in the sector to have a dedicated research department, HAD also offers research-focused capacity-building to Syrian NGOs.

Capacity Building

Training a new generation of researchers

The Academy’s most recent activity in this area was a three-day research training delivered to our Syrian partner organisation Syria Bright Future (SBF).

The training was developed and delivered by our Head of Research, Dr Jennifer Philippa Eggert, who has over 15 years of experience working as a researcher and practitioner in the Middle East, Europe and South Asia.

Participants included staff and volunteers of SBF, a local NGO that focuses on mental health and community wellbeing in Syria and amongst Syrian refugees in the region.

The training, which was interactive and participatory (as all HAD trainings are), included a range of different individual and group activities, to provide participants with an opportunity to engage with the topic from a variety of different perspectives.

What is research and why do we need it in the sector?

The training consisted of three modules that build upon one another, which helped to ease participants into the learning.

Since participants in the training came from a range of different backgrounds, the first module covered the very basics.

We looked at questions such as: what is research, what does it take to be a good researcher, why do we need research in the development/humanitarian sector, and what is the difference between qualitative and quantitative approaches.

The first session also covered how to plan fieldwork, devise an interview strategy and conduct interviews.

Participants particularly valued the mock interviews which we conducted (and then analysed) at the end of the first module.

Capacity Building

Conducting research under difficult circumstances

The second module focused on conducting research on sensitive issues and under difficult circumstances.

We discussed the meaning of research ethics, why it is necessary to take ethics into account, and how this in being done in the sector.

Participants critically engaged with existing ethical guidelines, and discussed how these can be applied when working on sensitive topics and in challenges circumstances, such as in areas afflicted by violent conflict and forced migration.

We then delved deeper into the topic by exploring the different ways in which research ethics (or the lack thereof) affect key stakeholders involved in the research process.

The last module of the training focused on what happens after the data collection process.

We looked at various strategies of managing, analysing and writing up research, and participants got an opportunity to try out some of the skills they had acquired during the training.

Excellent feedback by participants

Research methods are often considered to be a relatively dry (even boring) topic – so it was a pleasure to see how engaged participants remained throughout the training. This was also reflected in the feedback participants provided at the end of the three-day training.

15 out of 16 participants stated the trainer, venue and organisation of the training were ‘very good’ or ‘good’ (94%), and 14 participants said the same about the venue (88%).

13 out of 16 participants said they learned useful things at the training (81%), 15 participants said they enjoyed the training (94%), and 14 participants said they would like to receive more research training (88%).

Participants specifically commended the trainer’s ability to break down complex topics into manageable chunks and the interactive nature of the training.

Next steps: field research and research mentoring/coaching

Good capacity-building goes beyond just providing training.

In line with a comprehensive capacity-building approach, the training provided to our Syrian partner organisation SBF will be followed up by intensive research mentoring and coaching during the field research phase.

The SBF team will now develop an interview strategy, following which the data collection phase will start.

The data collection phase will consist of interviews with Syrian Muslim women in Turkey and Syria who have experienced trauma, to gain a better understanding of the role faith plays in their coping mechanisms.

Research project on faith, gender and trauma response

The planned field research in Syria is part of a one-year research project on faith, gender and trauma response in contexts of violent conflict and forced migration, co-led by HAD’s Research Department and the International Programmes Division at Islamic Relief Worldwide.

The project, which is funded by Islamic Relief Canada is aimed at informing the work of practitioners providing psychosocial support to Muslim women who have experienced violent conflict and/or forced migration.

In addition to the research conducted by SBF in Turkey and Syria, the project focuses on Iraq, Tunisia and Turkey.

HAD Fellows Sandra Iman Pertek (University of Birmingham) and Kathleen Rutledge (Queen Margret University) conduct the research in Turkey, Tunisia and Iraq.

The final project report, which will include guidelines for practitioners who focus on the role of faith in psychosocial work, is expected to be published in spring 2020.

Written by Dr. Jennifer P Eggert

Head of Research & Development