Collaborative Ethnography in Early Childhood Health and Development: Shared Skill Across Continents and Disciplines


This project will use ethnographic methods in collaboration with community-based organizations to evaluate the effectiveness of a new (CERES-funded) mobile-based assessment tool, under development by Dr. Draper’s team, which will assess the social emotional development and mental health of young children from vulnerable settings in South Africa. We are a team in Information Studies, Public Health, and Psychology; from the United States, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. In the U.S., Dr. Morgan Ames, Elizabeth Resor, and Zoe Kahn are qualitative researchers with experience conducting research in the context of international development, keen to explore alternatives to extractive research relationships. In South Africa, Dr. Catherine Draper and Dr. Caylee Cook lead a public health, early childhood development, and technology project that seeks to apply ethnographic observation as a means of evaluating the impact of a mobile-based assessment tool. In the U.K., Dr. Madeleine Pownall is a feminist social psychologist with expertise in open science. 

The proposed collaboration seeks to bring together the expertise of this research team as follows. First, to establish common language across disciplines and help develop the ethnographic sensibilities of a community-based research partner, we will hold bi-weekly Zoom meetings to discuss our own work and key readings from our respective areas of expertise. Second, the U.S. research team will meet in South Africa for one week of collaborative field observations of Dr. Draper’s assessment tool to coordinate our ethnographic observations, network, and strengthen our collaboration and the partnership with the community-based ethnographer. We will also reflect as a group on the strengths/limitations of these methods and share our observations about the implementation of the mobile-based assessment tool. Third, as part of our commitment to open science, the full research team will document our findings and processes to inform other interdisciplinary groups.

Project Team