I'll be giving my dissertation talk tomorrow in Berkeley:
Title: Serial Hanging Out in Mongolia: Information, Design & Global Health
Speaker: Jaspal S. Sandhu, University of California, Berkeley
Adviser: Professor Alice M. Agogino
Date: Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Location: Berkeley Institute of Design (BiD), 360 Hearst Memorial Mining
Many global health disparities persist not from a lack of technical solutions, but from an inability to effectively implement existing measures. While financing and human resources are critical concerns, so too is the need to better understand and adapt to the people who execute and benefit from these solutions. There is a significant opportunity here for applied ethnographic methods from design (design research) to examine the norms, knowledge, and needs of these individuals and groups. Despite interest in such an approach by organizations such as PATH, The World Bank, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, we still have a limited understanding of design research methods in the context of global health and development.
This dissertation aims to improve our understanding of these methods. It is a case study of a design research project examining the information management practices of “bagiin emch”, nomadic health workers in rural Mongolia. The design research was conducted between June 2006 and August 2008 in Mongolia in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and the Asian Development Bank’s Second Health Sector Development Program (HSDP-2). Although study participants included bagiin emch who received handheld computers from HSDP-2, the emphasis of this research was not on technology, but on innovation - the development and adoption of new information management solutions.
The primary field method was serial hanging out: multi-day, design-oriented participant observation. Serial hanging out is a novel approach to design research well suited to global health, so the contextual examination of the method is a primary contribution of this dissertation. The dissertation also operationalizes theoretical saturation for participant observation, providing empirically-based guidance for sample sizes, as had only been done for semi-structured interviews (reproductive health research) and focus groups (market research) prior to this study. This dissertation demonstrates how these methods achieve a richer understanding of people and phenomena, and how that is relevant to improving population health. At the same time, the dissertation explores how to use these methods most effectively, including an examination of design research capacity-building.