Every interview, conversation, and observation opens up new doors to be explored in our research. While the first few weeks were personally eye-opening and interesting, we were only able to scratch the surface of the financial lives of our neighbors. The growth of our friendships and trust within the community have now allowed us to identify the complex and intricate nature of their lives and the important ways in which financial services factor in, both in the short and long-term.

        I wanted to take the opportunity to explain in more detail what the financial diaries we are constructing consist of. Using the in-depth Financial Diaries from www.financialdiaries.com as our model, our initial questionnaire, out of 3, asks questions regarding family size, ages, educational attainment, living standards (dirt floor, stove?, etc), food habits (how often they have enough food) large events (emergencies or weddings, etc) and physical asset ownership to begin to paint a picture of how the family is organized and roughly their socio-economic status. The questionnaire is simpler and less intrusive than the rest, designed to make the interviewee more comfortable. We have also been using the initial questionnaire to highlight certain aspects of each household that we find particularly interesting and would like to explore deeper in further interviews.

         Our second round of questions is designed to build upon the trust from the first and delve farther into the inflows and outflows of capital within a household. To accomplish this, we begin by identifying all the sources of income. This process is long and complex, as we must continually dig to uncover all the sources of income, both formal and informal. We have to make sure to explore all non-employment income, such as grants from the government, retirement pensions, rental income, remittances, and dowries too, as they can alter a families economic status significantly. The process then involves identifying every formal, casual and self-employed source of income for all family members, including earnings; payment schedules, and taxes, so that we have a full picture of the family’s financial situation. The second questionnaire wraps up by identifying all household expenses, ranging from living expenses to educational to unexpected ones. While a little intense to accomplish in Spanish, these have been fascinating interviews so far. First of all, we have been stunned by the sheer poverty of our neighbors, caused in large part due to their fluctuating and unimaginably low incomes. In many cases, we have found incomes are patched together from several informal sources, such as day-laboring, selling eggs, or making cloth skirts, all of which are highly unreliable.

        Our third questionnaire deals with financial instruments used by the households. This one allows us to compile a summary of the different savings, lending, and borrowing methods that each household has implemented in the past. We have recently made several breakthroughs with our third questionnaire, as families have opened up to us more and divulged more details of their personal lives. As you might imagine, people are often hesitant to explain every detail about their money to a foreign stranger, so we have been very fortunate. These have been super interesting as they are the missing piece of the puzzle. Borrowing, lending and saving through friends, microfinance institutions, banks, asset accumulation, and savings clubs are proving to be the means by which the poor here survive. We are also finding that they employ an unexpected variety of these methods to meet both their short and long-term needs.

          Lastly, we are completing our portfolios by following the cash flows of a select number of interviewees, to see exactly how they manage money day in and day out for the rest of our time here.

        Sorry, but I’m not going to go too deep into our findings here as we are too excited to portray them to you all in our final documentary! But.. I wanted to explain what we are compiling. While we wanted to better understand this reality by living as close as we can to it, our story and research is about this community. The stories we are uncovering are inspiring me more everyday and providing the drive I need to keep going. The days seem to flying by and part of me wishes we had another month or two to keep learning. Our daily conversations are becoming more productive too, targeted at crafting our final product and discussing a variety of partial solutions to give back to this community. I hope that our documentary can instill a passion and inspiration in all its viewers to give back by any means possible, no matter the scale.
7/20/2010 08:15:00 am

and where did you learn to create these excellent research questionaires... 8:10am OrgPsych of course!

3/30/2011 11:27:05 am

Good work,hope your blog be better!I just want to make a blog like this!


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