M4GHD in Africa: general project considerations

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General project considerations :

revised 19 April 2019

Note requirements for the final paper: "Final project proposal, expanding the revised preliminary proposal to include also: a more extensive background section, a list of resources required with budget, a fundraising plan, a timeline, and a method for assessing impact (how will you know if you've succeeded in your aim?), with relevant citations to theoretical, topical, and areal literature. Your final proposal should be 15-20 pages in length (25-30 pages for 572), not including bibliography, using 1.5 line spacing, 1” margins, 12 pt font."

See suggestions and considerations below:

  • Make your project proposal as concrete as possible; ground it in real culture, real people, real resources. For instance, consider: where exactly will you be working? What ethnic groups, cultures, languages? What musical styles or genres? What films? Who exactly will you work with? If you are not sure or the answer may depend on PAR you can still give examples and possibilities. Grounding the project in this way will help you to formulate it far more clearly and in a more feasible and effective manner, as a response to a particular cultural situation. Meanwhile, you will also learn much more about African music and culture. In particular you need to show how exactly your project is grounded in African music/culture/society (Northern Ghana in particular) Ground your project in such specifics and it will come to life. Look up some articles on the music you intend to use and include this information in your background section.
  • Think your projects through! What does each step entail, what would it cost? Try to keep costs down and think about how you can create sustainability, even if no new funding materializes. Imagining that you actually have the funding, what you would do….first…second…third steps. Always ask yourself: how would this work exactly? Linguistically, financially, practically….? You may have lots of partners - but be sure you think through how you’ll work with them. Whom do you contact, how do you present yourself? What are the incentives for everyone to work together, given limitations in time and money? Understanding how you'll work with each partner will require a little background research - usually there's a website you can consult - and perhaps you don't want to propose a very long list if you won't have time to research each. Focus.
  • Consider especially: what kinds of music to use - and why. Try to bring in musical specifics - what music will you use, how will you produce it, who will it address? Give possible examples even if it’s not necessarily set until you’ve iterated PAR a bit. What is at stake in your initial choice? What languages and ethnic groups would be represented? Popular music might address the youth more, while traditional music might appeal more to older generations or (if younger) a single ethnic group. What about language - will people understand the songs? Can you design the music to broaden appeal somehow, maybe through fusions and combinations? Consider that many contexts are multiethnic or you want to address multiple groups - if you use traditional music, the question arises: which kind? Are you addressing all groups equally? If you use popular music, are you addressing all generations equally?
  • Consider generalizing the category of “music” to related arts - consider including musical instruments, drama, set design, poetry, stories, games, jokes, related: costumes, visual arts, etc.
  • There are many sources of African music online - many of you have searched on YouTube; we also have a few online collections you should know about:
  • You may include links to online media at any point - your own website, or youtube videos, etc. These can be cited via Zotero like anything else (try an automatic save to Zotero from your web browser - the URL will automatically populate)
  • Consider who is (inadvertently?) excluded via project design. Is English required? If so, are you sure the people in need know English? If not, how will you handle other (multiple?) languages? Is internet required? If so, how can you provide it? Don’t assume that it’s always available! Alternatively, you can justify the subpopulation that has access, and explain who will not be able to participate due to lack of resources. Be sure that those who can avail themselves of your project are also the ones who need it!
  • Consider also time: people in Ghana and elsewhere in Africa are often working very hard just to make ends meet, balancing different jobs - there isn’t a lot of free time unless you can provide compensation. Sometimes you’ll need to provide incentives or at least replace income that might be lost.
  • Your background section—providing a broad context for the problem you’ll address-- can fill in details on music and culture, drawing on relevant ethnomusicological and anthropological literature, showing me that you’ve researched these topics.
  • Language issues abound: Have you implicitly presumed English? that can work for many people in Ghana but it may not address everyone. Yet if you use other languages you may exclude also. Can you make your project multilingual? Or is it better to address one linguistic/ethnic group?
  • How will you handle translation? Be sure it’s in your budget.
  • Many of you are including the school venue as a meeting place; other possibilities include chief’s palace are (central to each town or village), churches, or mosques, though the religious organizations may resist music inside and may restrict the genres somewhat.
  • Consider the available media, whether broadcast or internet, and how they compare to live face-to-face approaches.
  • Make your project as creative as you wish. Feel free to compose, sketch, design. You can include media via links.
  • Budget: are figures once-only, monthly, annual…? How will you raise the money, particularly for recurring costs?
  • Feedback is crucial. Your project should be flexible enough to adapt as it progresses, and adaptation comes from feedback among the collaborators. On a longer timespan, PAR entails such feedback in its basic cycle (plan/act/observe/reflect), including impact assessments as one form of feedback, but faster feedback loops may also arise, whereby you try something out and if it doesn’t work you modify it. Consider how else you’ll obtain feedback from participants (conversations? meetings?). Perhaps feedback could include broad suggestions (revisions to the plan), or more specific suggestions (songs they propose or compose), something uploaded via an app, a focus group discussion, or simply a note sent back to you . More generally, think about how participants can affect the project, shape it, whether now or later? How will this feedback contribute to resonance?
  • Consider broadening the category of “participant” and not separating “research partner” from “stakeholder” (one who benefits from the project) too sharply. The line between “formal project partner” (e.g. the Ghanaian Ministry of Education) and informal partner (e.g. a local elder) can be blurry. Anyone involved can be considered a partner, and their inputs sought.
  • Some of you are mixing different areas of Africa - that’s fine but just show how it works out - for instance with an NGO from northern Ghana but a project based elsewhere. Show how it’s workable.
  • A number of you might propose to collaborate with Right to Play (https://www.righttoplay.ca/en-ca/) which already works in Ghana schools and can easily adapt to use of music and dance. Just something to consider.
  • Music as social technology works best to effect behavioral change. When there are other issues blocking development you have to consider how you'll deal with them without large expenditures of other types. For instance, you may want to improve sanitation. If behavior is the barrier, you can use music for health promotion through education. But if the problem is lack of clean running water behavior modification may not suffice.
  • How will you publicize your project? How do you get people to participate - either in the core PAR cycle, or as participants who stand to benefit? If it’s a media project (i.e. on radio) then the medium will do the job automatically, but in any case you might also want to include: addressing various organizational assemblies (traditional, school, church, mosque, elected bodies), talking to “heads” (for top down) such as members of parliament or legislative assemblies, teachers, chiefs, imams, pastors, and other leaders, putting up posters, and so on.
  • Might a "community based archive" of the type we spoke about in class be useful - a place where everyone can deposit resources, and also search and copy them?
  • Consider ethical dimensions of your project - how do you maintain a good balance of control/ power within PAR given that you are the project initiator and are probably arranging the funding? Might financial concerns become an issue? Is there a danger of exploitation? Of stereotyping? Of instigating competitions for your attention?
  • Presentations: your presentations in class could also be used in the field, to gather support, or to bring in funding. They were all very good, but here are a few things to consider: font size (will it be readable?), graph size (readable?); including too much text (sometimes it’s better to use short points but read longer texts); use embedded URLs to hide them behind text rather than pasting them in. Can you use the presentation in your project, as a means of increasing resonance, bringing more partners onboard and getting their feedback?