Can a mobile phone app help improve the quality of nutrition counselling? If so, how and why does it work?

During our latest CDI seminar, we will explore how the innovative methodology ‘process tracing’ was used to investigate these questions.

16 February 2017 - 1:00pm
Speaker(s): Inka Barnett (IDS) and Melanie Punton (Itad)

Can a mobile phone app help improve the quality of nutrition counselling? If so, how and why does it work?

During our latest CDI seminar, we will explore how the innovative methodology ‘process tracing’ was used to investigate these questions. Process tracing is a qualitative method for assessing causal inference within a single case design, and the evaluation hoped to contribute lessons about the value it could add to international development evaluations.

Existing evidence suggests that home-based nutrition counselling can be an effective strategy to address child undernutrition. However, studies show a lack of training of community health workers and the absence of standardised training materials reduce its quality and effectiveness. World Vision has designed an app to help address these shortcomings and to facilitate home-based counselling in Indonesia. Between January 2015 and January 2016 World Vision pilot-tested the app in rural and urban sites, and IDS, with support from Itad, set out to assess its impact on the quality of the counselling. The team used process tracing to unwrap the causal mechanisms between the intervention and the outcome, through developing and testing hypotheses about how the app improved the quality of the counselling process.

The presentation will walk the audience through the different stages of applying process tracing:

  • Developing a theory (or ‘causal mechanism’), and initial hypotheses to explain how the app was expected to improve counselling.
  • Designing and tweaking existing data collection tools to test the hypotheses, using both qualitative and quantitative methods.
  • Systematically examining the hypotheses using the collected evidence and drawing on process tracing ‘tests’ to assess causal inference. These tests (hoop, smoking gun, straw in the wind and double decisive) are one of the hallmarks of process tracing, and we will discuss the advantages and challenges of operationalising these.

Finally, the presentation will reflect on the lessons learned for applying process tracing in impact evaluations.

Location:
IDS Convening Space
Institute of Development Studies
United Kingdom
Partner(s): Itad, Institute of Development Studies
Public - open to all

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Communications
+44(0)1273 765250