Awesome things at SVRI Forum

After an awesome week in Bangkok, I thought I’d share some of the conversations, research, and events that happened last week because I’m feeling privileged to have been able to spend time with such a diverse, animated group of researchers and people passionate about ending sexualized violence. It was a singular experience, to be sure, and I can’t wait for the next one. Below is a partial list of the awesome things I saw and heard at the SVRI Forum in Bangkok, in no particular order.

  • Research on LRA child soldiers and the harsh methods used to control them by Jocelyn Kelly of the Harvard Humanitarian Institute.
  • Tweet-ups. Such a fantastic group tweeting the Forum and interacting online. Storified here.
  • An Egyptian woman recounting how she and her daughter went to the Tahrir protests for two weeks in a large group of women, and how her daughter became more autonomous, independent, and opinionated as a result.
  • A Bhutanese woman talking lovingly of her King, who she thinks looks like Elvis Presley, and the modest cottage he inhabits.
  • Limited positive effects of cash transfers on instance of intimate partner violence in Ecuador by Amber Peterman of the school that shall not be named.
  • An American woman recalling the 70s in Berkeley and abortion activists offering to pay her to get arrested to perform an abortion without a license
  • The same American woman recalling her interactions with rural Japanese housewives.
  • Lots of UN and NGO politics.
  • A Kenyan woman surmising that Kenyatta has the potential to be Kenya’s greatest president yet, if (and that’s a big IF) he doesn’t end up being a war criminal.
  • Thai food. So much wonderful, delicious Thai food.
  • Kate Falb of the Yale School of Public Health on multi-faceted interventions addressing gender inequality and economic empowerment in Cote d’Ivoire.

There were so many more. Check out all the presentations online.

Twilight Zone Tuesday, or Delayed Sept. Jobs Report

As if I didn’t already feel like I’d stepped into the twilight zone, trying to teach classes on a Tuesday morning after two days of traveling from Thailand to Easton, the September jobs report came out today, two and a half weeks late due to the shutdown.

In sum, the economy was already struggling before the shutdown, and now $24 billion later, it’s probably going to be even more difficult to get humming again. One bright spot, many more full time jobs than part-time jobs are being created than previously thought, which is good and exposes a chink in the Obamacare-kills-jobs refrain. There’s lots of good summaries out there on the jobs report, but if you have time, I think you should go read it yourself.

Statistical significance and complex intervention environments

One of the resounding themes of this morning’s plenary at the SVRI Forum is how to deal with high standards for statistical significance in extremely complex, sometimes dangerous and impoverished communities. In particular, the presentation on SASA!, a GBV intervention in Sub-Saharan Africa, tried to show very large effects of their program with a very small sample size and very little statistical significance. Charlotte Watts discussed at length how we shouldn’t “throw the baby out with the bathwater” and how if we’re missing statistical significance by “a hair’s breadth,” we shouldn’t ignore the results.

It grated on me that the discussion took this particular path because I think there is a large opening for those doing research to examine the different ways that we use and examine quantitative evidence, but most involved still heavily relied on the semantics of statistics. There is a strong argument for mixing qualitative and quantitative research. Each method can uncover patterns and trends and events that are not evident in the other, and qualitative work can provide justification for small-scale quantitative work with small sample sizes or insufficient power. I don’t think this is the only way of dealing with the problem, however.

We know that RCTs are expensive. Lori Heise, of the London School of Tropical Medicine, made an excellent point that if RCTs are the standard, there has to be more funding and recognition of that from the donor community.

There’s a lot of work and questioning to be done around this issue. Just because there is not sufficient power or sample size to find a statistically significant effect, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t ask the question, but it does affect how we can present the results. And presenting the results as of a particular magnitude (especially when that magnitude is large), just identifying that it matches the expected direction is not really sufficient and worse, perhaps disingenuous.

SVRI Forum

I’m in Bangkok this week for the SVRI Forum. I was promised a lively event full researchers, practitioners and those generally interested sexualized violence and gender-based violence, and it’s turned out to be awesome. The Forum has expanded this year to include trafficking and child protection; the latter topic brought me here.

I’m tweeting much of it (when I’m not too tired to think), as are several others at the conference. If you’re interested, I suggest checking out the hashtags #SVRI and #SVRIForum@TheSVRI is retweeting many of the best tweets and a fellow conference-goer, @prabudeepan, has storified yesterday’s tweets. So, even if you’re sleeping as I hear about stats and interventions, you can get all caught up.

For just a taste of my first day’s reflection, I’ll say that it’s wonderful to be at a conference of like-minded people. It’s rare to look at a conference program and think, “I want to attend every one of those sessions,” but that’s the case here. It’s also wonderful to reconnect with the folks I’m working with in Zimbabwe, as well as many individuals I met last year in London at the Nike/DFID conference on adolescent girls. And new people! There are so many smart, wonderful people doing work in this field.

I’ll leave my more somber notes for a longer post after it’s over.