5.4.3 Clarify language and explain terms to youth

Unclear language, poor translation, or difficult concepts may undermine data collection and influence results. Tools should be easy to use and thus facilitate the collection of clear and accurate data. Tools should be pilot-tested with target groups before they are used.

Jasmine Thomas, Program Officer, International Financial Capability & Asset Building and Youth Education & Livelihoods of Citi Foundation, noted that in many cases, important terms or concepts do not translate easily. For example, the term “financial capability” can be challenging to translate so instead the concept must be described depending on the local language used. And, in many cases, terms must be translated from the dominant language of the country to tribal languages. Several program partners use the term “set money aside” instead of “saving.” They frequently “set money aside” to pay for upcoming costs, such as school uniforms or fees, but most do not consider that act as savings. Saving may be perceived by youth as a behavior that one engages in with a formal institution involving a lot of money. On the other hand, setting money aside is perceived as any behavior that postpones immediate consumption with a goal of using money later for a specific purpose, using either formal or informal mechanisms. Both are savings, however, to low-income youth in Ghana. Setting money aside provides a better explanation of “savings” as most international development practitioners would understand it, and it is a phrase youth relate to.

Practical Tips: YouthSave and AIM Youth on How to Ask Survey Questions

Surveys are important ways to capture information; they tend to be time and labor-intensive. To ensure that surveys capture accurate and representative information, consider the following tips when formulating questions:

  • Shorter is better; use clear language
  • Do not assume youth will know what you mean by “save” and “budget”
  • Offer response choices that will give you useful information
  • Train interviewers – how to ask questions without biasing results
  • Note if youth are unable to understand questions and/or are uncooperative
  • Include interviewer prompts in your instrument

AIM Youth, a program of Freedom from Hunger, a nonprofit, international development organization that offers sustainable, self-help solutions, used the financial diaries methodology to survey youth at intervals over a year-long period (see “Employ the financial diaries methodology to capture nuances of youth financial management over time.”) That experience gave them a new perspective on survey instruments as well as challenges with reaching the same respondents.

  • Create age appropriate questions that are pertinent to youth respondents.
  • Pilot test survey for errors and impressions, incorporate feedback.
  • Youth can forget how they spent their money, but over time they will start to “learn” to remember the type of information asked in future surveys.
  • Enumerators could call in advance to each meeting to ensure respondent will be present.
  • Sometimes parents may send youth away for a few days to run errands in other villages; build in time for delays and occasionally a missed survey.
  • Over time a rapport should build with the enumerator, leading the respondent to give more accurate data because they know they can trust the respondent with personal financial data.
  • Enumerators can use surveys filled with data from the last round to check against new information.
  • Find ways for the enumerator to make the respondent feel comfortable opening up; however, realize that there is a limit to how much personal information youth will often give out of reluctance or fear that they will look irresponsible.
  • Make a plan for finding replacement respondents if you expect a high rate of migration (consider how many of your respondents you are alright “losing”).
  • May need to remind respondents periodically what they are getting out of the surveying, and why it is important to continue to participate; gifts and flexibility with times available are major factors in participation.

Enumerators will hopefully enjoy the process of getting to know the respondents.