Means of Verification/Data Collection

Means of verification graphic

Means of Verification are the tools used and processes followed to collect the data necessary to measure progress. The data collected may be quantitative or qualitative. Qualitative data is more open-ended and often collected through interviews, focus groups and other qualitative data collection methods. Quantitative data is used to answer questions such as, how many, how often, what proportion, and how much, and is largely collected through surveys.

Data collection methods may be structured, semi-structured or non-structured.

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Main Data Collection Methods in the Context of P/CVE:

  Advantages in a PVE context  Disadvantages in a PVE context
Surveys A method to collect information and insights on a topic, often through paper or digital questionnaires.
  • Ability to be anonymous may elicit more truthful responses
  • Can collect information from a large group of people
  • Low costs
  • Quick responses
  • Respondents have time to consider their answers
  • Access is limited to those with Internet/phone access
  • Participant cannot ask if he/she does not understand the question
  • Response rates can be low
  • Cannot ask follow-up questions
Focus Group Discussions A group of participants, usually from a similar background (age, gender, profession, etc), are asked about their attitudes towards a project or topic. Focus groups discussions are carefully facilitated by a third party and usually consist of 6 to 10 participants.
  • Focused on specific topic such as a community issue
  • Discussions generate a wide range of opinions
  • Provides opportunity to exchange ideas with others who may have a different view point (e.g. youth leaders can learn from police officers and vice versa)
  • Allows for immediate cross-check on information
  • Moderator bias: Moderator may hint at or state their personal biases, skewing the results
  • Social desirability bias: participants may answer questions dishonestly in order to be viewed favourably by other participants (e.g. youth may answer differently if police are in the room with them)
  • Groupthink: participants may agree with others in the group just to minimise conflict, while really they have a different opinion
  • Lack of anonymity: participants may not share some sensitive information (e.g. a youth may not be comfortable sharing about their interaction with a VE group)
Key Informant Interviews A one-to-one interview; can be structured, semi-structured, or unstructured. Interviewees may include government officials, NGO staff, private sector representatives, religious leaders, academics, etc. 
  • Collects detailed information about a specific topic from an expert
  • Allows in-depth exploration of ideas that emerge from other methods
  • Findings may be biased: requires interviews with large number of respondents with varied views
  • Can be difficult to identify “experts”
  • Can be difficult to schedule
  • Time-consuming
Observation Two types of observation: 1) Non-participant observation is a method in which the observer has no direct contact with the subject. 2) Participant observation takes place when an observer engages directly with the subject of their observations (e.g. joining a population or organization) and participates in the activities that are being studied.
  • Can be used to identify why an intervention is not working well
  • Can be used when difficult to apply formalized data collection methods, such as when a population is resistant to being interviewed.
  • May be able to observe events that drive VE, such as sermons that advocate violence.
  • May be difficult to gain access to groups
  • May be dangerous in certain VE contexts
  • Time-consuming to acquire enough data
  • Limited to smaller number of settings
  • For participant observation, participants may take time to trust the evaluator

* The information in the table above is extracted from: International Alert/UNDP's Countering Violent Extremism and Risk Reduction: A Guide to Program Design and Evaluation (look at page 110 for more information on specific types of surveys and participatory data collection methods); IMPACT Europe: An Evaluation Toolkit for professionals working in the counter violent extremism field; and “Designing for Results: Integrating Monitoring and Evaluation in Conflict Transformation Programs” (page 207-209) for advantages and disadvantages for additional data collection methods.