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Liberating Structures' Simple Ethnography

Simple Ethnography allows participants to make detailed observations as an unobtrusive observer about the activities of people with frontline experience on a given topic. This allows participants to find new approaches to challenges or discover insights about the population they are observing.

far fa-dollar-sign fa-sm Budget (e.g. personnel, space, equipment) Low Medium High far fa-user-clock Time per interaction I expect to engage stakeholders for... An hour or less Half a day A full day far fa-calendar-check Number of interactions I expect to interact with stakeholders... 1-2 times Appx. 5 times 10+ times Engagement Purposes far fa-scrubber Identify and explore new perspectives or understanding far fa-scrubber Select outcomes and measures that matter to stakeholders far fa-scrubber Investigate best ways to successfully implement a study, based on stakeholder insights far fa-scrubber Design strategies for translating research into practice far fa-clock Time Frame

75 minutes to 7 hours

fal fa-tasks-alt Workload LIGHT MEDIUM HEAVY
Appropriate Applications More useful for: far fa-scrubber Helping invisible routines become visible far fa-scrubber Identifying fundamental needs and innovation solutions far fa-scrubber Revealing tactics and latent knowledge not accessible by asking users for explicit needs far fa-scrubber Showing respect and trust by observing and interviewing people on the front line far fa-scrubber Prototype development far fa-scrubber Understanding community dynamics far fa-scrubber Collecting data in a limited time frame far fa-scrubber Generating a lot of information in a short amount of time Less useful for: far fa-scrubber Producing quantifiable measures of extent of engagement far fa-scrubber Direct collaboration with stakeholders far fa-scrubber Producing findings generalizable to a larger population Key Characteristics Resources Needed fas fa-money-bill-waveMoney far fa-scrubber Funds for travel far fa-scrubber May want to provide participant incentives far fa-scrubber Depending on your industry, you may need to budget FTE for your team fas fa-paperclipMaterials and Resources far fa-scrubber Workspace for conducting activity far fa-scrubber Notebooks far fa-scrubber Camera/video recorder (if applicable). fas fa-usersPersonnel far fa-scrubber Ethnographers How To Invite participants to silently observe people with experience relevant to the challenge at hand and then follow up with interviews for more insight. Provide notebook, camera, video, permission (if needed). Explain the problem to be solved and the current understanding of the situation. (5 min) Identify sites to observe and people to shadow that will reveal user experience in depth. (5 min) Invite participants to visit sites and silently observe interactions and activities, recording details and internal reflections as they go. (10–180 min) Ask participants to then select behaviors observed that address the challenge in a novel fashion and follow up by asking the individuals they observed what they were feeling and doing as they engaged in the behavior. (20–180 min) Reconvene the group of ethnographers in a local setting (workplace, client organization, neighborhood) with a convenient space for sharing findings, photos, and videos. Compare notes and find patterns across observations or exceptional solutions. (15 min) Write up observations or compose stories that highlight needs and opportunities. (10–20 min) Use insights to inform brainstorming and prototyping efforts. (10 min) Repeat steps until your group feels they have the information they need to develop a solution to the challenge or a new approach to prototype. Debrief with the whole group. From LiberatingStructures.com: http://www.liberatingstructures.com/28-simple-ethnography/ Tips Be objective: avoid adding meaning and interpretations too quickly to the observations Be prepared to repeat steps if the core-group members don't feel they have a particularly powerful new approach to prototype Be aware that insight comes from inconspicuous, often overlooked details Focus on the intrinsic qualities; ignore material or technological hierarchy Look for what is irregular, intimate, unpretentious Look for comfort with ambiguity Don't ignore what is imperfect, crude, or impermanent - deviance can be positive Do one or more rounds of simple ethnography after you implement your new approach Examples https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1119117/ References / Other Resources http://www.liberatingstructures.com/28-simple-ethnography/ https://dguth-journalism.ku.edu/Ethnography.html

The Stakeholder Engagement Navigator is a service of the Data Science to Patient Value Initiative at the
University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

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