A guide for field projects on adaptive strategies Layer 3 Layer 4 Layer 2
Underlying principles
Ecosystem-based approach
Participatory research methodologies
Participant Observer
Rapid Rural Appraisal (RRA)-You Are Here-
Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA)
Participatory Action Research (PAR)
Project Stages

Rapid Rural Appraisal (RRA)

Rapid Rural Appraisal consists of a series of techniques for "quick and dirty" research that are claimed to generate results of less apparent precision, but greater evidential value, than classic quantitative survey techniques. The method does not need to be exclusively rural nor rapid, but it is economical of the researcher's time. It is essentially extractive as a process: the agenda is still that of the outside researcher.

RRA (and analogs) emerged in the 1970s as a more efficient and cost-effective way of learning by outsiders, particularly about agricultural systems, than was possible by large-scale social surveys or brief rural visits by urban professionals. It drew on many of the insights of field social anthropology of the 1930s-1950s, emphasized the importance and relevance of situational local knowledge, and the importance of getting the big things broadly right rather than achieving spurious statistical accuracy. It developed a style of listening research, and a creative combination of iterative methods and verification, including "triangulation" of data from different sources - using two different methods to view the same information. It was usually conducted by a multi-disciplinary team, and its chief techniques included:

  • Review of secondary sources, including aerial photos, even brief aerial observation
  • Direct observation, foot transects, familiarization, participation in activities
  • Interviews with key informants, group interviews, workshops
  • Mapping, diagramming
  • Biographies, local histories, case studies
  • Ranking and scoring
  • Time lines
  • Short simple questionnaires, towards end of process
  • Rapid report writing in the field.

Dangers and drawbacks

The range of techniques can be effective, but it remains fundamentally an extractive, externally-driven process. Many researchers who use standard RRA methods claim that they are using PRA, when the "participation" is restricted to provision of information to the researcher by the community. The simple test is what is the value added and who owns the product. If the community draws a map because you ask them to, it's RRA. If they realize that the map belongs to them, and want to keep it for their own use, then it's PRA.

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