This is the third step in people-centred development. When looking at the people around us, we often interpret the words and actions of others through our own view of the world, which is largely characterized by our cultural background. Common patterns that we share with other members of the community give importance to what we see and hear. Members of the same cultural setting also form different sets of informal rules, discursive practices and patterns of behaviour that are obvious to them or expected by others. Therefore, our actions are adapted to others’ expectations, even though we are often not even aware of it. People interpret the words and actions of other people in different contexts and situations. As a rule, we do not have problems with the interpretation of the words and actions of other people in our own cultural environment because we share the same or similar practices. Problems may arise, however, when we come into contact with people from different socio-cultural backgrounds and with different or divergent practices. In this case, our interpretation of the words or actions of others can be significantly different from the intentions of the person who made a statement or committed an act. All this information should be considered in the analysis and interpretation process, which makes sense of the data we have collected in the previous step, i.e. during the research. Our goal is to adapt products and services to different cultural contexts. In addition, we should take into account diversity within each cultural framework. In this way, we will be able to make solutions, which will be relevant and meaningful for people we identified in Step 1.
Preparing reports: academic vs. industry
There are a number of codes and conventions to producing knowledge and preparing reports. This holds true both in the case of conventional and applied research, although the criteria and guidelines for producing knowledge are configured differently. In the case of conventional academic research, the production and dissemination of knowledge is addressed primarily to the community of practitioners of which a researcher is part, and thus must meet certain criteria. These include the use of particular scientific vocabulary or jargon, the contextualizing of research in terms of existing literature, and the presentation of the research process and data and its analysis in a particular manner. Producing and disseminating knowledge in the form of academic monographs and articles represent the main ways that researchers practice/perform their expertise.
As in the case of conventional research, one of the most important criteria defining how research findings are to be presented in people-centred development research lies in identifying the primary audience: the client and (potentially) other significant stakeholders. This means that the reports are not meant to be a performance of expertise aimed at one's peers but a forum for communicating research process and interpretations to your client. According to Sam Ladner (2014), one of the biggest challenges to doing ethnography in the private sector is writing up your research in a way that will make it accessible and engaging enough to inspire improvement or change. In such a context, writing up a report in a similar fashion to an academic article is ineffective - and may end up simply filed away. This does not imply that you should adapt the content of your findings. Furthermore, clients can have certain prejudices against people-centred studies, especially if they equate scientific methods with quantified, positivist analyses - which colour their expectations, as have we discussed earlier (see case Managing Expectations).
How to deal with this issue? One method, we already suggested includes the client in the research process (going on field visits, observing interviews), thus involving them in the research process. Another effective strategy is to begin the report by providing a brief overview of the methods employed and the range and breadth of data collected. This will provide a useful frame for research findings and people’s contribution to them as well as the researcher’s interpretations of the findings and recommendations for the client.
While the writing of a conventional academic text signals that dissemination of the results of a research project, the report in a people-centred project does not necessarily provide a definitive set of findings. It may operate as a springboard for a subsequent phase of research or cooperation with stakeholders regarding product service or development.
IT industry can change the world for the better
Genevieve Bell is now a professor at Australian National University; previously she worked at Intel for almost two decades. She joined the international IT company after working at Stanford University as a researcher and lecturer. When she assumed her position at Intel, it was apparent that the company hired her to provide a fresh approach that would help establish a link between technologies and users; however, it was not entirely clear what the role of a highly educated anthropologist among IT experts should look like. "I remember that they did not initially know best what to do with me," she recalls. "We had in fact a completely different way of working and presenting our findings. We [anthropologists] didn’t use diagrams and equations in presentations. Instead, we used a lot of photos, speeches and reports that summarized the narrative of the people that communicated with us in the field.” Over time, the company got used to more “colourful” presentations and realised that the ethnographic research in which a researcher encounters people, talks to them and participate in their everyday routines can be extremely important for Intel. These sorts of studies can provide "first hand" experience into how people use certain products and what do people think about their services. Bell remembers that the important “click” in minds of electrical and computer engineers occurred at one of Intel's annual conferences attended by 6,000 employees. At the time, the CEO delivered the keynote speech and emphasized how important anthropological approaches are to understand the future technologies being developed at Intel.
Once the ice was broken, several changes occurred in the company. "Working at Intel is now a real pleasure," explained Genevieve Bell when she was still in Intel. There are many social scientists working in the team - from anthropologists and sociologists to psychologists. These scientists use a wide variety of approaches to determine how people live and interact. In her department, which is focused on user experience and interaction, there are now people who have studied the interactions and negotiations between indigenous populations and Indonesian mining companies and researchers who were engaged in studying female drivers of Harley Davidson motorcycles. Interestingly, Bell, as the director of the division, hardly hires anyone who previously worked in information technologies. "If we want to gain a new perspective on technologies,” she explains “we need a diverse team of professionals." They have to have a good insight into human practices and solid theoretical knowledge, which helps them understand how people work and how societies change - together with technologies used by the people.
When designing technologies that will shape the future, Genevieve Bell keeps in mind a quote of the famous anthropologist Ruth Benedict, who said that the purpose of anthropology was to make the world safe for human differences. Therefore, she is also not particularly bothered about the fact that her academic knowledge was "sold" to the corporate world and industry, since she believes that corporations such as Intel can participate in changing and improving the world as much - if not more – than academia.