Poll - what research questions do you want me to investigate while I'm in Africa?

by katherinesavoie2 min read7th Feb 202018 comments



I am about to travel to Rwanda and other African countries to do some on the ground research and would love feedback on what potential topics would be most useful for the community. Below are more details about the project. The poll is on my website here or you can vote in the comments. I'll add each option as a comment that you can upvote. Please just use a single point instead of using any extra weighting you might have.

I'll be traveling for an indefinite period of time (probably on the scale of a few months) and I'm going to be trying to get a better sense of on the ground, qualitative information. The science, quantitative, and big picture/low resolution stuff I can and will be getting on the internet via reading and Skyping with people, but I want to have a qualitative, higher resolution understanding from being on the ground. I think that this will help flesh out my understanding of the problems and might unearth things that would be hard to discover from afar. 

My strategy at the moment is to focus more on explore vs exploit and while I have some questions going in, I'm trying to keep it largely exploratory so that I can jump on unexpected opportunities for learning.

I have very little money as this will be self-financed, so don't suggest anything that costs a lot. Unless you or anyone you know is keen on funding me of course! If I had more funds I'd be able to: hire local/professional translators to understand people better who I otherwise wouldn't be able to talk to; go to more remote areas that might have a completely different way of life and set of problems than those in more accessible ones; go to a wider range of countries; spend less time and cognitive energy arranging couch surfing or losing sleep in hostel dorms; and generally be able to jump on more opportunities as they come up. I think even just $2,000 US would make a huge difference to the endeavor. If you're keen, just reach out to me over Facebook or at katherinexsavoie@gmail.com 

I'll be writing up a lot but not all of the results of these questions on my blog and the EA Forum to share it with relevant parties. 

Ideas I could investigate

Factory farming - go to a factory farm and see what the conditions are like there compared to developed countries.

Ask locals what they'd want from us - ask Rwandans and charity workers what they think the charity sector is missing or what problems they want help solving.

Wild animal suffering - follow around certain animals and bugs in the wild to make notes of what an average day in their life looks like.

Ask locals what EA is missing - tell Rwandans and charity workers about EA and ask them what they think that we are missing / what our blind spots are.

Mental health professionals in the developing world - talk to a few mental health professionals about how mental health works in a developing world context and particular problems they're facing.

Family planning - ask people from a diversity of places (urban, rural, middle class, poor, etc) about their preferred family size and how they think about it and contraceptives. Apparently there is some data that many Africans have smaller families than they'd like. Some people think the high fertility rate of Africa is a large contributor to its economic issues, so it could be a fruitful line of inquiry.

Experience sampling for happiness - do experience sampling (a much better way of assessing happiness than the usual "how satisfied are you with your life?" question) of people to get a better sense of how happy they are on a day-to-day basis.

Rural animal welfare - go to villages (ideally ones visited by GiveDirectly or other GiveWell top charities) and see what the quality of life of the animals there are.

Mental illness in developing world - talk to those who are dealing with mental illnesses (such as depression or anxiety) and learn more about how that might be similar or different in a developing world context.

Loss of child flow-through effects - ask those who have lost a child years in the past about their experience of it. I would research and talk to people about the best way to do this so as to cause as little distress as is possible given the topic. This would be to investigate the flow through effects of infant mortality on the family.