Interview Method

Interviewing the Residents: (Mission and Philosophy)

After the preliminary walks along the road, we focused our attention on the physical and social contributions of the local community members and the current stormwater interventions used by the residents. Initially, all four of us visited homes along the road and conducted informal interviews of the residents (Figure 2.1). Co-researchers were crucial translators in the interview process, as they communicated our questions to the Xhosa and English speaking residents and relayed responses to us in a way that we could understand. Unfortunately, the information given by the residents was minimal and often scarcely pertinent to stormwater management issues.

Figure 2.1: Stormwater Team Speaking with Residents

Thus, considering the limited nature of the information we gathered from the residents, we created a formalized interview plan aimed at retrieving specific information from the community members (Appendix –). We created a brief introduction explaining the nature of our work in Monwabisi Park and its strategic alliance with the VPUU.

Hello, we are a group of students from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in the United States of America.  We are working with the VPUU to implement a drainage and stormwater management plan here in Monwabisi Park and we would like to speak with you to gather information regarding the flooding issues that arise during the heavy rain season.  Would you be willing to take a few minutes to share with us your observations and concerns related to this topic?

You can change your mind at any time, or refuse to answer any questions that you may feel uncomfortable about or do not wish to discuss.  The information gathered from this interview may be used in our report (show them the report from last year), as well as any pictures that we take.  Are you okay with this, and is it okay if we take a few pictures?”

To assist with this introduction process, we obtained the 2009 CTPC Executive Summary booklet, which enabled us to show the residents what our intended final product might look like. The interview had one main question: “Is flooding a main issue or not?” Depending on the answer to this question, we would continue with a specific set of questions; if they did experience flooding, then questions pertaining to the amount of flooding they experienced, preventive methods they had employed and the social interaction within the community in respect to stormwater, would be asked. If no flooding was experienced, then questions concerning why they did not experience flooding and inquiries of any particularly effective methods of prevention, were asked.

In order to be more efficient in researching the hot spots, we divided our work between two pairs. One pair, Kaylyn Button and Rodrigo Ma, conducted the formal interviews of the residents in the “hot spots” and the other pair, Elisabeth Jeyaraj and Edwin Muniz, took measurements of different sections of the road. Before going to the field, the team made sure to explain to the co-researchers the exact meaning of the questions and the nature of the information they were looking for. The exact purpose of this step was to be sure that the co-researcher had a clear idea of the project, and could steer the conversation in the appropriate direction, especially if it was conducted in Xhosa (Figure 2.2). The pair also explained that accurate translations would be more beneficial, as generalized answers or summaries would not be specific enough for the overall objective of the project. Both of these considerations helped Button and Ma gather appropriate and relevant data.

Figure 2.2: Working with the Co-Researchers

At the beginning of each interview, the co-researchers introduced our team and explained to the residents in Xhosa the goals of the project. The interviews reiterated to the residents that they were not obligated to answer the questions asked of them and at any point they could end the interview if they felt uncomfortable or did not want to share any further information. To create a more personal environment, Button and Ma used the executive summary from the 2009 CTPC to show the residents what their intended project goal and outcome was.  By showing the residents this booklet, they were able to explain that the overall idea of the project was to provide information to the VPUU so that upgrades could be implemented in the future.

The pair returned to twelve households to conduct more detailed interviews (Appendix –). These interview questions inquired about the residents’ experiences with flooding, how flooding has or has not affected them and their homes, about interventions that have and have not worked, and about their thoughts on what could work to prevent flooding. The questions also explored the social aspects created and affected by the storm water conditions and the problems that they create.  Questions such as “Do your preventative measures affect your neighbors?” allowed Button and Ma to get a deeper insight into how the residents communicated and worked with one another with respect to flooding conditions and risks (Figure 2.3).

Figure 2.3: Interview with Residents

As a team, we took a written record of the residents’ responses and marked on maps the different houses that experienced storm water issues.  This allowed us to identify which houses off the main road should be interviewed as well.  By having a clear understanding of what houses should be approached, our team was able to create a database that compared the responses of neighbouring residents.  This helped to identify inconsistencies in the feedback among neighbouring community members in the hot spots.

Using the map of the C-section road with the hot spot locations identified, we analyzed each hot spot.  Comparing the map to the interviews (while considering the specific responses), we were able to assign key words to each section using four categories.  The four categories used to label each hot spot are as follows:

  1. Existing physical conditions
  2. Existing social conditions
  3. Current interventions
  4. Possible solutions

Using one key word from each category, we used the evidence and information gathered from the interviews to assist in describing the overall ambiance of each hot spot.

Table 2.1 shows the key terms:

Table 2.1: Keys Terms for Interventions

Such a method not only portrayed a concise picture of each hot spot, but it also helped our team to identify trends that were present throughout all of the hot spots. This organization made the large amount of data easier to read and analyze, and it allowed us to gain a better understanding of what methods worked and what methods did not work.

After three days of conducting interviews, we learned that some residents were not available during the weekdays. The solution crafted by our team, with help from the advisors, was that the interviewing work should be delegated to one of the co-researchers to do over the weekend, when the shack-owners were certain to be available for interviews. For this purpose, Button and Ma explained carefully to a specific co-researcher, Thabo, how the interview should be conducted, what each question was specifically asking, and to record every detail of the residents’ responses. In this way, we were able to gather all the relevant information regarding flooding and stormwater management in Monwabisi Park, which we would then analyze to create a stormwater management plan that suited the needs of the residents of the informal settlement.

We began to focus our research in hot spot D during the third week (beginning November 8, 2010) because the residents in that area had already implemented a few effective stormwater management techniques around their houses and alongside the road. This piqued our interest, and helped our team decide that this area could show the greatest potential for implementing a successful solution.

During our Thanksgiving break, November 24th through 26th, we did not go to Monwabisi Park. In order to continue the research, Thabo was able to interview houses located in the three other hot spots (A, B, and C). We prepared Thabo for these interviews by giving him a set of questions that he needed to ask and we provided him with paper to write down the responses. We sat down with him and explained to him exactly what we were looking for. The information that Thabo gathered was crucial to understanding the point-of-views of the residents in these hot spots.

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