A Resource Guide for Community Vulnerability Assessment IACC Project April 2005 This is a short resource guide for researchers and research assistants involved in community vulnerability assessment in the context of the IACC Project. A fundamental research activity in the IACC project involves assessing the current and future exposures and adaptive capacities to climate conditions of rural communities in Canada and Chile. In to do this, we have decided to use an approach that requires the identification of those climate related conditions that are relevant and problematic to people in the community, the ways the community has dealt or is dealing with those conditions, and their evaluation of the role that public institutions have played in helping the community. In to do this we have opted for an open qualitative participatory action approach, or what has been commonly defined as an ethnographic style of research. This guide seeks to describe the main components of ethnographic research and act as a guide to different sources containing more detailed discussion of these
components. This guide will not provide definitive directions in the field or resolve problems that researchers will encounter in the field; it should only be used as an introductory overview of research process. Many of the decisions made during fieldwork activities will have to be taken in consultation with other researchers. For more information about this process of consultation, see the Fieldwork Guide. Since each community represents a particular case, researchers will not be able to apply the same procedures in each instance. Researchers will need to be flexible in adapting to the circumstances that arise in each community. What is important is to get enough information to provide good answers to the central questions or issues that will guide our work. Ethnography is a qualitative research method that focuses on the study of groups, cultures, or subcultures. Ethnographic research is characterized by the researcher’s
immersion into the social setting, dynamics and structure of the group being studied. In this case, researchers will live in and study communities in the South Saskatchewan River Basin in Canada (Southern Alberta and South Western Saskatchewan) and the Elqui River Basin in Chile with the objective of understanding the present and future vulnerability of these communities to climate change. The following brief guide to ethnography draws on various web resources and texts that users are encouraged to access for more information. The web resources included in the guide are primarily taken from a website maintained by Mary Sue Stephenson of the University of British Columbia (UBC) listing numerous research
method resources on the WWW. Her website also has a list of websites specifically
dealing with qualitative ethnographic research. These websites provide long lists of
links, sorting through which might take a long time. For the ease of the user, many of these links have been provided in the text for each of the specific stages of research. However, these lists of resources maybe helpful if you are looking for more information on a specific topic. It is also important to note that the web resources used in this guide are primarily to provide research assistants with a basic understanding of ethnography – these resources are not heavily academic in nature and serve only as an introduction to the key components and elements in the process.
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