Passively Observe This one can be hard for people to understand because it essentially means coming to an assignment intentionally underprepared. Not unprepared, but open to a degree of ambiguity. We have design tools, research approaches, interview guides, and a well developed understanding of the spaces we operate in. We have deep experience doing this work all over the world. But still, there is strength in coming to a foundational research assignment with an unconstrained view. There is power in thinking that anything, any future is possible.
Learning to Be Inconspicuous
John Collery
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This piece is “spot on” John! I especially like your section: “Passively Observe” and not wanting to have too many preset opinions about the people — rely on a fixer for context. It is easy to fool ourselves into thinking we understand Tanga, Tanzania because we lived for 2 years in Iringa, Tanzania.

I would like to add two observations. First, I believe the local fixer is absolutely critical. I spend time with the fixer first — how ever many cups of tea it takes to feel comfortable with eachother. A fixer that trusts me and believes in me acts authentic among his peers and I become as inconspicuous as possible — great things happen. But if the fixer is wary of me, it’s a long uphill climb.

Second, you have written an excellent start to a “research playbook” but to be successful in following your advice, one needs experience living and working in and among all types of people and cultures and physical conditions and climates with communications success and failures under their belt. You clearly have that experience!

Looking forward to your next piece!

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