Trip to Ethiopia

Earl Babbie

On January 11th, I left Orange County on a trip to Ethiopia, to advise on the evaluation of a social change project being created there.

Getting to Ethiopia is a big deal.  Here's one way to do it (all times local):

11th - 0820: Leave Orange County
11th - 1312: Arrive Dallas/Fort Worth
11th - 1435: Leave Dallas/Fort Worth
12th - 0740: Arrive Frankfurt
12th - 1030: Leave Frankfurt
12th - 1500: Stopover at Cairo
12th - 1700: Leave Cairo
12th - 2135: Arrive Addis Ababa

In round numbers, I was in transit around 30 hours, 20 on them in the air.

Leaving Orange Country for Dallas/Fort Worth 
on January 11, 2002.

A view of Addis Ababa from the Sheraton Addis


Ethiopia in Brief

Ethiopia is an ancient society, one of the oldest in the world, tracing its culture back through a 5,000-year history.  Even beyond that, the Afar Triangle has yielded hundreds of early hominids, including humanity's 3 to 4 million year-old mother, "Lucy."

During the course of five millenia, Ethiopia has experienced good times and bad.  After turning back an Italian invasion attempt in 1896, the country generally prospered during the first third of the 20th century.

With the death of the Emperor Menelik  in 1913, it was deemed inappropriate for his daughter, Zauditu, to lead the country and a regent, Ras Tafari, was appointed to exercise control in her stead.  He proved an effective leader and Zauditu named him King in 1928.

Map source: Encyclopedia Britannica

With Zauditu's death in 1930, King Tafari proclaimed himself Emperor Haile Salassie I and continued Ethiopia's economic and social development.  Coffee had proven a valuable export, and Ethiopia was able to develop a modern infrastructure of roads, communications, hospitals, schools, and the like.  In 1931, Salassie instituted a constitution that established a quasi-democratic government.

Ethiopia's modernization proved a threat to Benito Mussolini's vision for the Horn of Africa.  In 1935, Il Duce lauched a new assault that ultimately formed Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia into Italian East Africa.  The Emperor fled into exile in 1936, and the Italian fascists ruled for five years.

The most tragic moments of the Italian occupation came in February 1937.  Italian Viceroy Graziani invited the Ethiopian populace to a public celebration of the birth of the Prince of Naples.  This proved the setting for an assaination attempt by two young Ethiopian men.  A contemporary account of what transpired is provided by Wayzaro Shawaragad, writing in the Ethioipian Times (November 23, 1941):
"The two young men threw the bombs and Graziani was wounded. The Italians then lost their heads and turned machine-guns on to the crowds, killing indiscriminately. Several thousand people had been invited to the ceremony which was held at the Palace [now Addis Ababa University]... It is difficult to say how many were killed, but there were very many.

Machine-guns were turned on the crowd as they tried to force their way through the gate-way to leave. For the next three days an organised massacre began of Ethiopians in Addis Ababa, and elsewhere throughout the country. Leading Ethiopians, especially the young ones, were taken out of their houses, stood up against a wall and shot. The Italians tried systematically to eliminate all Ethiopians whom they considered were the elite... I estimate that about 3,000 Ethiopians were killed during this period, which was like a second Bartholomew. The Blackshirts were the worst; they were so blood-thirsty that the Italian soldiers and carabiniers often tried to stop them killing..."

Source: Richard Pankhurst, "An Interview With Wayzaro Shawaragad Addis Ababa's "Joan of Arc,'" Addis Tribune (Addis Ababa), December 7, 2001, posted to the web December 10, 2001

This monument in Addis Ababa commorates the Graziani Massacre the depicts scenes of soldiers slaughtering crowds of unarmed civilians.


With Italy's entry into World War II as an ally of the Axis, Britain joined forces with Emperor Salassie and eventually liberated Ethiopia in 1941.  The pre-war march to modernization had been significantly interrupted, however, and was not easily reinstated.  Nor were the European players in Ethiopia's modern history quick to make amends for past misdeeds.

As only one example, Ethiopia continues a quest to obtain the return of ancient cultural and religious artifacts.  Italy, for example, periodically promises to return ancient obelisks, most notably the Aksum Obelisk, looted from the ancient Ethiopian capital in 1937.  Italy promised to do so as part of the Italian Peace Treaty of 1947 and renewed that promise fifty years later in the Ethio-Italian agreement of 1997.  It has yet to keep these agreements.

In seeking to understand the reasoning that would justify Italy's refusal to return ancient cultural artifacts to the nation they were stolen from, Richard Pankhurst of the Addis Tribune pursued the matter with various Italian and world authorities.  While some responses waffled on the matter, some, like Signor Luigi Tomasino [identify??] were bluntly unapologetic.

"Why", he asks me, personally, "do you want to see the return of the obelisk to the Niggers? Do you not understand that it stands in Rome as a symbol of our Civilising Mission in Africa! Yes, a Civilising Mission, not only in Etiopia, but also in Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia!". . .

"You have written of Mussolini's use of poison-gas, but, do you not know gas was used to civilise... If it had been used in Afganistan, as in Ethiopia, Libya, Eritrea and Somalia, there would be no terrorism in the world today".

Source: Richard Pankhurst, "The Aksum Obelisk, The Minister of Education, And the American Ambassador," Addis Tribune (Addis Ababa), December 14, 2001.  Posted to the web December 14, 2001

The oldest books in the British museum are said to be bibles stolen from Ethiopia but, unlike the Italians, the British make no promises to return them--they simply refuse to do so.

Against a background of European mistreatment, Ethiopia has also suffered from regional troubles.  It has had a long-running dispute with Somalia over the Ogaden region on Ethiopia's southern border.  The secession of Eritrea (and the entire Ethiopian coastline) is only one year old, and the new border is outlined by an estimated one million land mines.  Amputees hobbling on crutches are common sights even in Addis Ababa, the urban capital.
Ethiopia has suffered from strictly internal problems as well.  Following the war,  Emperor Haile Salassie enjoyed less universal support and was forced to deal with continuing civil unrest.  An attempted coup d'etat in 1960 was generally ignored, and the emperor continued attempts to rebuild the old order in Ethiopia.  While perhaps relatively progressive in the 1930s, it did not appear as such following the war, especially in the eyes of students and other young people.  Political failings, combined with famine, drove Ethiopia into deeper and deeper national despair.  In 1974, Salassie was deposed by a military mutiny, which established a Marxist government known as the Derg (Coordinating Council).

Salassie lived under house arrest until 1975, when he died of what were initially described as "natural causes" but later rumored to be strangulation upon Derg orders.

Photo from Encyclopedia Britannica, 2002

For seventeen years (1974-91), Ethiopia suffered under centralized economic mismanagement by the Derg government.  This disasterous national leadership was made worse by continuing civil wars and famine.  Finally, in 1991, the Marxist government was itself overthrown, to be replaced by a regional alliance espousing decentralization and democratization.  Following a shaky decade, Ethiopia is still in the process of establishing a modern democracy.

The most superficial of world public opinion would portray Ethiopia as an impoverished people, dependent on first-world charity and basically insignificant to world affairs.  This is an inaccurate view.
Quite beyond its ancient civilization, marked by periods of regional dominance, Ethiopia has played a key role in modern African affairs.  It played an important role in the establishment of the Organization of African Unity in 1963, for example, and the OAU is still headquartered in Addis Ababa.  The Organization of African Trade Union Unity was formed in Addis Ababa in 1973.  In many other ways, Ethiopia has been an important player in the post-colonial rebirth of Africa.

Source on Ethiopian History:  Harold G. Marcus, "Ethiopia," Encyclopedia Britannica, 2002.

Ethiopian Social Problems
Its prominence notwithstanding, Ethiopia is today a land of severe social problems.  Its population of some 60 million has a per capita GDP of $660. (Source: Population Reference Bureau, "2002 World Population Data Sheet," Washington, DC, 2002) 

Poverty is resident in the city and in the country alike.  Sometimes it overlaps the two.

The mountain roads outside Addis Ababa are covered with women (often elderly) carrying heavy bundles of firewood they have harvested in mountain forests.  They are able to make one trip to town each day, selling their bundles for 3 Birr, or approximately 35 cents US.


The harvesting of firewood, in turn, is stripping the land of vegetation--with all the attendant environmental problems that entails.

Ethiopia has the third largest HIV-positive population in the world (following India and South Africa).  It is estimated that over one million children have been orphaned by AIDS.  (Source: UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, December 12, 2001)
Many of Ethiopia's contemporary problems are a direct or indirect result of rapid population growth and overpopulation.  The total fertility rate (the number of children born to the average woman) is 5.9.  As is typically the case with high fertility rates, infant mortality rates also run high.  In Ethiopia, approximately 10 percent of newborns die during their first year.   (Source: Population Reference Bureau, "2002 World Population Data Sheet," Washington, DC, 2002).

 The problems of poverty, overpopulation, AIDS, and a lengthy list of related social problems are interwoven in the tapestry of traditional Ethiopian folk culture.

The list of relevant cultural elements should probably begin with male dominance.  Most family decisions, including family size, are made by men.  Even when women say they would prefer to have no more children, they typically add that their husbands will make that decision.

The minority status of women can be seen throughout the culture.  In some regions of the country, as many as 90 percent of marriages are established through abduction (NCTPE 1998).  A woman may be kidnapped and held physically captive, being repeatedly raped by her prospective spouse until she surrenders to the marriage.  Should she escape her captivity and wend her way home, there is a good chance that she would not be accepted by her family of birth.  Should they accept her, there is a good chance that they would be ostracized by the rest of the community.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is widespread, estimated at 85 percent of Ethiopian women (Haregewoin 1995).  While forms vary, FGM, also know as "female circumcision," at least involves the removal of the clitoris.  In addition, the vaginal opening may be partially stitched shut to reduce its size.  Among other things, these procedures are intended to insure female fidelity (by reducing the woman pleasure in sex) and to increase her husband's pleasure.  An unintended consequence is found in the elevated numbers of women who die in childbirth due to constricted vaginal tracts.

Marital infidelity among men is more widely accepted than is the case for women.  Coupled with a preference for unprotected sex (see below), male promiscuity is a chief vehicle for the spread of HIV-AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Poor female reproductive health, as well as overpopulation, are enhanced by a tradition of early marriage for women.  One survey found that over a third of both rural and urban women, who had ever been married, were first married before their 15th birthday. (NFFS 1990)  This helps to explain fertility rates of six or seven children per woman.

This pattern is even more striking in rural areas, often with a majority of women marrying before puberty.  Such a young bride is seen to be more malleable into a subservient wifely role, more likely to be fertile, and--as a guard against the need for divorce--more likely to enter the marriage as a virgin. 

Family planning and birth control are greatly underutilized for a long list of reasons, ranging from religious beliefs that pregnancies reflect God's will to macho beliefs that many children is a sign of masculinity.  To make matters worse, there are numerous erroneous beliefs and fears about contraception.

Some Americans object to condoms in the belief that they will reduce sexual pleasure.  So do many Ethiopians.  However, few Americans believe that condoms have been infected with the AIDS virus and will infect users.  Many Ethiopians do.  Other contraceptive techniques are widely believed to cause infertility, impotence, and even cancer.  So even when people are aware of modern family planning methods, they are unlikely to utilize them.  It is estimated that only six percent of adult Ethiopians practice modern family planning.    (Source: Population Reference Bureau, "2002 World Population Data Sheet," Washington, DC, 2002).

This partial listing of Ethiopian social problems should suffice for present purposes.  It should be clear that the solution of those problems, and others like them, will depend on fundamental changes in Ethiopian culture--primarily linked to the status of women, family size, and safe sex.  In these respects, Ethiopia is typical of countries around the world.  Such changes do not come easily and rarely as the result of rational discussion and decision-making.  Even legislation is not necessarily the answer.  For example, abduction is illegal, yet it sometimes even occurs in the urban capital of Addis Ababa.

Can anything be done?

Entertainment Education and The Sabido Methodology
The project that brought me to Ethiopia was a creation by the Population Media Center, founded and led by Bill Ryerson, a long-time population expert and activist.  His intention is to address the problems of (1) large families, (2) HIV/AIDS, and (3) status of women.

To do this, he is adapting a 25-year old methology developed by international communications expert, Miguel Sabido, the former Vice President for Research  at Televisa in Mexico.  Miguel now teaches at the Annenburg School at USC and lectures around the world.  Bill brought Miguel to Ethiopia to work with local writers and producers in creating a media assault on Ethiopia's problems

Bill Ryerson and Miguel Sabido

Miguel explaining his methodology in Ethiopia
In simplest terms, the "Sabido Methodology," an example of "Entertainment Education," develops soap operas which consciously promote progressive social values.  These have been employed successfully in countries around the world, including Mexico, India, Kenya, Tanzania, Brazil, The Philippines, and Madagascar.

Unlike "preachy" public service messages, the Sabido-style soap operas have enjoyed immense popularity-- as serial dramas. Often they have become the most popular soaps in the countries where they have appeared.  In addition to entertaining the public, however, their social messages have impacted behavior: increasing the use of family planning clinics, reducing birth rates, etc.

Aside from the progressive aims, I have been impressed by the Sabido methodology in terms of evaluation research.  Miguel has created a more thoughtfully detailed research program than any other social intervention I'm aware of.  Here's a brief overview.

The project begins with an in-depth analysis of the society's culture, resulting in a "values grid" of the official standards of the culture as well as the actual norms and values found in practice.  A number of appropriate methodologies may be employed: surveys, review of existing statistics, content analysis, etc.  The results of this analysis are compared with the values and practices to be encouraged by the soap operas.

Next, teams of local writers are briefed by the researchers and then set about writing pilot episodes for the new soaps.  The episodes themselves are crafted according to formulii concerning the kinds of characters (positive, negative, transitional), the placement of cliff-hangers, etc. 

Once the pilots have been written and recorded, focus groups are employed to obtain feedback on strengths and weaknesses.  New episodes are prepared for full dissemination through public broadcast.

Both radio and television programs are being broadcast in different countries today.

As the initial episodes are being aired, focus groups provide a continual monitoring of their reception. Focus groups of "committed listeners" are convened monthly to discuss the shows: how they feel about the characters, the story lines, and any latent messages they are getting from the shows.  This is also a vehicle for keeping the shows up to date with events in the society: e.g., earthquakes, political elections, etc.

The final step in the Sabido methodology is an evaluation of success.  While the focus group evaluations of the pilot episodes can give useful feedback on the soaps as entertainment, the social change intended to be achieved through the latent themes and messages are expected to occur over the course of 2-3 years.  This requires answering the following kinds of questions:

    o  What do you hope to accomplish?
    o  How long should it take to occur?
    o  How will you know if you have been successful?
    o  Who will be responsible for finding out?
In the Ethiopian project, PMC has a staff research director, who has contracted for studies through local research firms.  In addition, PMC has a national research director who coordinates with the Ethiopian director.  I was asked to offer additional on-scene consultation on the Ethiopian project.

Ato Ababow (right) is the Ethiopian PMC staff member responsible for research.

In a value-charged research situation such as this, it's essential that I be conscious of my own subjectivities and motivations and to be upfront about them.  I agreed to come to Ethiopia primarily for the following reasons:

    1.  I have a long-term, personal friendship with Bill Ryerson, PMC founder and president.

    2.  I have a long-term commitment to the issues being addressed by the project. (I am, for this reason, as well as personal friendship, also a financial supporter of PMC.)

    3.  I am interested in getting some first-hand experience of research outside the US, as a way of making my textbooks less parochially American--to broaden (predominantly American) students' view of research and the world.

Obviously (1) and (2) above could present threats to my objectivity in the matter.  Bluntly put, the evaluation research aims to determine whether the soaps produce the intended results, and positive findings would be used by PMC in seeking funding support for future projects in other countries.  It is thought that my reputation in research methods would lend weight to the evaluation findings, thereby increasing the likelihood of support--if the results are positive.  While my personal friendship with Bill Ryerson (and my own financial support of PMC) could bias me in the direction of wanting positive evaluation results, it is worth noting that (2) above actually offers some protection against that risk.

If personal bias resulted in seeing positive impacts where none really existed, I would be helping direct future money and efforts into activities that do not actually stem overpopulation, encourage safe sex, and improve the status of women.  Neither PMC nor I would want to do that.  It would be preferable to learn that the soaps do not produce the desired results, as the first step in finding out why, and correcting the problem.

Motive (3) above should represent no problem to objectivity.  I am more interested in being able to present descriptions of the particular research problems and perhaps novel solutions in research settings that greatly differ from those customarily found in the USA.  This is unaffected by whether the soaps are found effective or not.

There are, of course, other protections against personal bias: foremost being public, professional review of research practices and conclusions.

Let me turn now to a review of my activities in Ethiopia in January, a part of my sabbatical plan for Spring 2002.
Saturday (before my arrival), Miguel had begun working with the local writers regarding his methodology.  This process continued during Sunday and much of Monday.  (I arrived in Addis at 2130 Saturday night and joined the workshop at 0900 on Sunday.)

Whereas Bill has employed the Sabido methodology elsewhere without Miguel's direct participation, his hands-on participation in the Ethiopian project was exciting to all involved and an obvious benefit to the process.

The Ethiopian writers and producers had another powerful resource, however.

The writers were seated at a roundtable with Miguel in the front of the room, with researchers, staff, observers, etc. seated in the back.
Virginia Carter is an experienced and well-respected Hollywood veteran, best known for her collaboration with Norman Lear on such shows as All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Maude, One Day at a Time, and others.  Virginia is currently a member of the PMC board and has worked with Bill in India, China, and elsewhere.

She was in Ethiopia to support the new project.  As a subtheme for the sessions, she consistently promoted and protected the local writers, insuring that no one forget how central they were to the success of the project.  Clearly, her concerns and vigilance reflected her own identification as a writer and her years of observing the plight of writers in Hollywood.

I suspect Virginia's concern for the writers may also have reflected, in some measure, their ages.  They seemed so young, were so enthusiastic, and were turning out such engaging characters and imaginative story lines, that it seemed vital to protect and nurture them.

Tuesday morning, Virginia had a session with the writers, sharing her own experiences as a writer--and particularly some guidelines for working in teams--and the young writers were unanimous in wanting her to stay on indefinitely.

These are some of the writers, who are organized into two teams, writing two independent soaps for Ethiopia's two primary languages: Amharic and Oromiffa.

Monday afternoon, some local, contracted researchers presented the findings of focus groups set up to evaluate the four pilot episodes in the two soaps.  Sixteen focus groups had been run, divided equally in the two language areas and equally across the four episodes in each language.

The research results focused on problems FG members had with the episodes: the characters, story lines, musical interludes, etc.

The researchers also sought to assess the success of the episode in promoting the intended values.

While I had questions about composition of the focus groups, the uses of the different episodes, and related issues, I was more concerned about reports that the pilot episodes seemed to be achieving the objective of changing opinions.  In the Sabido methodology, the social values lay quietly in the background, intended to produce results gradually over the course of 2-3 years.  The initial purpose is to engage audiences in the soaps as entertainment.  (Ordinary American soap operas, of course, also communicate latent messages, typically those of the mainstream culture.  The Sabido methodology, by contrast, consciously presents and promotes social change messages.)

Thus, the PMC soaps were designed in distinct contrast to "preachy" public service dramas, like the personal hygiene movies many of us watched in gym class.  On the face of them, particularly at the outset, they were intended to be more entertaining than educational.  The educational impact was intended to be latent and gradual.

As an aside, I might note that Sesame Street is an excellent example of Entertainment Education, in contrast to Educational Entertainment.  Children watch Sesame Street because it's fun; they enjoy it.  They are surely unaware of the social values they are being subtly socialized into.  This is also the intent of the Sabido methodology.

I was surprised and concerned, therefore, that the shows had apparently produced "results" in the course of a single episode, suggesting the messages were perhaps too blatant and heavy-handed.  So I asked the researchers for a description of how people were selected for, and invited to participate in, the focus groups.  Most important, I wanted to know what the participants were told about the programs they were going to listen to.
The researcher's response was unsettling.  He described, as a specific example, how he would visit a bar in a target community, order a drink from one of the sex-workers and engage her in conversation.  He would return to the bar on successive days, establishing a relationship with the young woman, during which he would engage her in conversations about her experience of her profession.  He would encourage her to reflect on the problems she faced: the risks of HIV/AIDS, the oppressed status of women, etc.  Eventually he would introduce the project he was working on: the development of soap operas to change people's thinking about such issues.  He would invite her to join the focus group and help evaluate how well the shows accomplished their purpose.

Evidently, many of the FG participants indicated they had learned things from the soap episode they listened to and felt it was successful in communicating its social change messages.

This revelation produced an uproar in the workshop, calling into question the validity and utility of the focus group research.  On Tuesday morning, when the writers gathered to respond to the research report, the researchers indicated that they had misunderstood the question--that they had been describing a different study and that FG participants were told nothing about the intentions of the soaps.  Indeed, they indicated they had even refused to identify the sponsor of the research.  (The name, Population Media Center, could have had a biasing effect.)  Ultimately, we were left with uncertainty about the FG research.

Planning the Evaluation

Wednesday morning addressed the issues most relevant to my own expertise and possible contribution.  I asked for an opportunity to lay out a basic context for creating the evaluation plan.  I began by suggesting that the staff detail each of the program objectives, using the four questions mentioned earlier in this chronicle.

1.  What is the intended outcome?  (e.g., a reduction in desired family size)

2.  How long is likely required to achieve that outcome (e.g., 2-3 years)

3.  How would be know if the outcome had been achieved?  (e.g., population surveys asking for desired family size)

4.  Who will be responsible for obtaining the data needed to assess whether the outcome had been achieved (e.g., a contracted research firm)

I urged that each of the intended outcomes be laid out in the above details.

Then I outlined some of the data sources that might be appropriate for the evaluation of intended outcomes.  Where possible, I urged that "hard" rather than "soft" data be used.  For example, official Department of Health statistics on fertility rates would be preferable to, say, survey results on intended or preferred fertility rates.  Existing statistics from government and non-governmental organizations, I suggested, might often take the place of new data collection.

In addition to already existing data sources, I described other possible data-collection methods: content analysis (of newspapers, laws, speeches, etc.), surveys, experiments, and qualitative, ethnographic studies.  I outlined the strengths and weaknesses of each.

Already on the table were two competing proposals: (1) a national population survey, to establish a baseline for monitoring changes in public opinion and behavior once the soaps were on the air, and (2) a more focused experimental model,  which would establish and compare areas getting or not getting the soap opera broadcast signal.
I reiterated the strengths and weakenesses of the two proposals.  The survey, proposed by a local research firm, could provide a baseline measure of a large number of relevant demographic and attitudinal variables.  It could provide evidence of changes in attitudes toward female genital mutilation over time, for example.  The Ethiopian people as a whole could be observed in this fashion, and analyses could look more closely at different regions of the country or specific types of people (e.g., men vs women.)

Dr. Assafe (right) is an Ethiopian researcher who conducted much of the initial background research for the project and who has proposed a national survey.

Attributing any observed changes to the soap operas, however, would be more difficult--though not impossible.  Let's say that the support for FGM decreased over time.  How could we be sure the soap operas were responsible for the change?  Other anti-FGM programs by government or NGOs might actually be responsible.  If more women were being educated or entering the job market, that might be the cause.  Or, other communication content--e.g., a newspaper expose of the evils of FGM--might be the real agent of change.

While more complicated, it would hardly be impossible to test the impact of the soap operas on the observed change.  Those surveyed should be asked about the extent, if any, to which they listened to the soap operas.  If those who reported regular listening were less likely to support FGM, that would provide some indication, though not definitive, that the soaps had impacted the change.

Of course, it could be argued that the kinds of people who listened to the radio were also the kind of people least likely to support FGM.  For example, wealthy, urban respondents would be more likely to own radios and thus be able to listen to the soaps, and, by their pre-existing culture, would be less likely to support FGM.  This possibility can be tested through a more complex analysis of the survey data.

For example the relationship between soap-listening and FGM-support could be examined among rural respondents and among urban respondents separately.  Any relationship still found to exist in those subgroups could not be attributed to rural/urban effects.  Similar controls could be utilized with regard to wealth, gender, religion, or any other variable that might challenge the impact of the soaps in reducing support for FGM.

In contrast, the experimental model--proposed by the PMC national research director--offered the possibility of more definitive determination of causal relationships.  For example, two sets of villages could be identified in the rural areas of the country.  Villages would be assigned to one or the other of the two groups in such a way as to insure comparability overall.  Then, steps would be taken to insure that the villages in one group had access to the soap operas, while villages in the other group did not.  The implimentation of this plan called for the purchase and distribution of hand-crank radios, now available for about $40 each.

Attitudes and behaviors would be monitored in all the villages and they would be compared over time.  If the villages with radios changed behaviors and attitudes, while those without radios did not, that would provide compelling evidence that the soap operas made the difference.

I mentioned two weaknesses inherent in the experimental model.  First, it would not provide overall, national data, to allow monitoring changes in Ethiopia as a whole.  Second, it might be argued that any changes observed were at least partially a result of the experiment itself.  Some changes in attitudes and practices might simply result from feeling special, as was the case in the classic American study revealing the "Hawthorn Effect."  Or perhaps the radios opened villagers up to other information that actually had the effect on attitudes.

The best solution, I suggested, was to find a way to do both--in fact to use multiple methologies through the evaluation.  By the end of the session, it seemed likely that Dr. Assafe's firm would be asked to conduct the national survey, while a radio-distribution program planned by CARE could provide a vehicle for the experimental study.

In addition to the general input I was able to make, some specific suggestions regarding modifications to the survey sampling plan were carried over to a meeting with the local researcher on Friday morning.  At that latter meeting, I discussed modifications to the sampling design proposed by Dr. Assafe.  It was an interesting experience for me.

I made it clear from the outset that I had no expertise in Ethiopian society nor any experience doing research in Ethiopia.  I wanted to be able to make some suggestions, however, that might or might not apply to local conditions.  Each of the suggestions I made produced a conversation about whether and how it might apply in the Ethiopian study.  In the end, I felt I had made a contribution to the research process without dictating methods that be inappropriate in Ethiopia.

We parted with promises to stay in touch via email as the evaluation progresses.  After that, it was time to prepare for the 28-hour return. (I don't want to talk about it.)