Research Framework and Methodology

From the above insights the following research question evolved: How does social media contribute to strengthening the abilities of individuals, organisations and societies to reach their developmental goals? Central to the operationalisation of the research question was the status quo we were facing:


a) the field of impact evaluation of social media in development cooperation is almost entirely nonexistent,


b) practical examples from the on the ground work of GIZ and other organisations are available, however, need to be collected structured and analysed. In other words the research framework had to be designed in way that experience from the field informs theory creation and is channelled back to the field again in order to improve the use of social media. By adopting an action research approach we could generate evidence from the work of pioneering projects, as well as identify challenges in terms of relevance and impact as we moved forward.


We have deployed two sets of methodologies that provided empirical data for the analysis.

a) Content and behaviour analysis of online social networks.Social networking sites (e.g. Facebook, Ning, LinkedIn), blogs, microblogs (Twitter) and augmented reality applications (Foursquare, Geoloqi) provided insights into the evolution and agency of grassroots technology communities. Through the analysis of such online communities our particular purpose was to understand the opportunities as well as the limitations of individual agency in a virtual environment. Augmented reality tools have been particularly important in order to understand the interaction between physical and digital worlds.


b) Focus groups and individual interviews.Even though focus groups and individual interviews can prove difficult depending on the cultural or political barriers (willingness of the participants to reflect on their individuality or on their motives for using social media). They have been used as an affirmative tool in order to reflect on and refine the findings from online social networks. Through the use of focus groups we aimed to adjust the findings. The interviews have been semistructured and contained 14 qualitative as well as quantitative questions.


In total 40 interviews and four focus groups were been conducted.


>> Ch. 4 'The Currencies of Social Media'