Governance Diaries: An Approach to Researching Marginalized People’s Lived Experiences in Difficult Settings
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How do chronically poor and marginalized citizens interact with and make claims to the different public authorities that exist in fragile, conflict and violence-affected contexts? In other words, how does governance from below look like in difficult settings? Given the centrality of the ‘leave no one behind’ agenda, an understanding of how such populations meet their governance needs can help identify the constraints to achieving development for all in these challenging settings. We wanted to research these questions comparatively, to see if there were common features of response in different contexts, with the presence of various kinds of non-state actors, diverse histories of colonialism and authoritarianism, and widely different social norms. In this article we describe the governance diaries approach, an iterative alternative to large-n surveys and multi-sited ethnographies we developed in the process of answering these questions. Governance diaries, working as a qualitative panel data, are a suitable approach for researching complex behavior that changes over time as large-n surveys are insufficiently dynamic to trace the processes behind change (lacking sensitivity) and ethnographic studies often have limited generalizability (lacking comparability). We describe here how this approach works and the challenges and opportunities it offers for research.