2.1 Research and Analysis

Establish a Production Schedule

Table 1 lists possible steps in the research and analysis during the preparation of a national or regional Human Development Report.

Table 1: Basic Steps in Research and Analysis
Research Data collection and processing
Analysis Address the general theme of human development
Address the specific theme and related issues
Evaluate relevant national development policies
Results Develop report conclusions
Produce recommendations
Permanent Participation, consultation and partnerships

A production schedule should be established through consultations with all members of the report team and related structures, especially the steering committee. It should cover every phase of report production from research to first draft, second draft and so on. Practical deadlines for the achievement of each phase should be determined with a reasonable expectation they may be met.

Appoint a coordinator to monitor the production schedule and production deadlines. The coordinator should be associated with the institutional focal point or located in the lead institution. The coordinator should assist the team and the lead institution in managing the HDR process and planning ahead to keep on track, on time and on budget. The coordinator should do this work with an eye to assisting the HDR team and the steering committee in following the United Nations Development Programme’s results-based management framework. Introducing a results-based approach enhances management effectiveness and accountability by defining anticipated results that are realistic, monitoring progress towards the achievement of these results, integrating lessons learned into management decisions and reporting on performance.

Carry Out Comprehensive Data Collection and Processing

The careful collection of high-quality data during the HDR process is essential for two main reasons. First, the inclusion of precise, up-to-date data enhances the value of an HDR as an information resource. Second, the availability of detailed data supports accurate analysis during the preparation of the report.

The steps in a sound methodology for comprehensive data collection would probably include at least the following:

  • Conduct a survey of the data available on the theme of the HDR and related issues and on human development indicators The statistics departments of the UN regional commissions, International Labour Organization, UNDP, UNICEF, the World Bank, the World Health Organization and other international organizations, as well as specialized governmental, non-governmental and civil society organizations, are rich repositories of a broad range of useful data.
  • Establish an institutional partnership on data issues with national statistics agencies. At the local or regional level, the data produced by international organizations may not be sufficiently detailed or nuanced. The assistance of national statistics agencies is therefore crucial in the collection or production of reliable, relevant qualitative and quantitative data. It is good practice to build a relationship with the national statistical agency and discuss all the data in the report with them: they are often best placed to help find appropriate data, and alert you to problems with the data that you are planning to use. In countries with weak statistical capacity, the HDR team should encourage these stakeholders to participate in the HDR process. Indeed, a subsidiary goal of the HDR process should be to promote national capabilities in data collection and analysis. UNDP can assist in this effort.
  • Examine regularly the availability, reliability and relevance of data. Revisit questionable data, update data and fill data gaps (figure 1).
  • Explore data disaggregation. National or regional averages may mask significant development disparities and pockets of deprivation within a population. By disaggregating national or regional data by various population categories (gender, place of urban or rural residence, age, regional location, religious affiliation, ethnic group, and so on), the HDR team can begin to achieve a better understanding of, for example, the distribution of poverty and the nature of development inequalities. The team can also disaggregate time series to evaluate development trends among individual population groups, regions, or sectors.
  • Participatory qualitative assessments also represent a way to understand people’s perspectives on development within their own reality (box 1) and offer people the opportunity to express their aspirations and participate in advocating for policies that reflect these aspirations. Non-statistical, contextual data are also useful in conducting stakeholder and institutional analyses to shape policy recommendations, as well as in identifying critical issues demanding prompt policy responses.

Instituting broad-based consultations

Participatory mechanisms involving organized structures for dialogue are necessary to enhance research and analysis with information on the needs, views and experiences of stakeholders on the theme and related issues. These mechanisms necessarily involve consultations, which may encompass conferences, ad hoc meetings, workshops, brainstorming sessions, focus groups, interviews, and so on, with people in various groups identified by rural or urban location, age, gender, socio-economic status and so forth.

Such participatory mechanisms and consultations promote local ownership of the HDR process. They also help generate public interest in the report, engage stakeholders in efforts to provide validation for the report’s findings and represent a first step in mobilizing public action to implement the report’s recommendations.

The human development community

The government and the UNDP Country Office, Regional Bureau, or Regional Centre should be urged to become partners in research and analysis. They can also act as a gateway to national, regional and international expertise. For national reports, Country Offices are encouraged to draw on the expertise of Regional Bureaux, Regional Centres and policy advisors at critical points during the HDR process. Likewise, international institutional partners and stakeholders such as UNDP, UNICEF, the World Health Organization and the World Bank, as well as national non-governmental development actors and civil society organizations at every level, should be tapped for their views and expertise, data, experiences and useful case studies. Appropriate mechanisms might include one-time consultations, periodic contacts, joint research and data-gathering efforts and so on. The goal should also be regular exchanges of data, analysis, experiences and good practices across the country or the region.

Best practice in consultation

Implementing best practice in consultation requires appropriate tools so that the HDR team can engage stakeholders while establishing an environment that encourages close listening, an understanding of the positive value of suggestions and action on sound recommendations. The following can help do this:

  • The Human Development Report Office and the Bureau for Development Policy of UNDP can provide guidance and extensive practical support on the consultation process. This may include contacts with experts.
  • Background materials for consultations should be carefully prepared and distributed beforehand. Participants might receive, for instance, a background note and a progress note on the HDR process, a consultation agenda, a concept note on the purpose of the consultation, selected research materials, guidance notes for any breakout groups, and questionnaires to gauge the views of participants on the consultation process that may then be used to improve future consultations.
  • Team members, including authors and contributors, should take part in the consultations, which might be organized separately across various issues related to the theme. (See the module on the initial steps for examples of the stakeholders who might be targeted.) Ensure that the various components of the national or regional report team meet regularly to discuss the inputs gathered. All involved should meet together or separately, as required, so that they may remain informed and active in addressing the needs encountered and other matters involved in the preparation of the report and subsequent initiatives.
  • Create a dedicated website and establish social media outlets. Using the website, email directories and social media, establish communities of practice and knowledge networks to share information and discuss findings. Hold regular public meetings, consultations and workshops and seek out additional public communication and consultation opportunities. The social networks and regular consultations should tie in with both the research effort and the drafting of the report. They should be inclusive and participatory and involve all key stakeholders. They should also involve brainstorming on the application of the human development approach to the HDR theme and related issues. Reports on the results of the consultations should be posted on the website to solicit comments, advice and other feedback.

HD measurement

Global HDRs are able to address development issues in individual countries or regions only broadly. National and regional report teams are much better placed to identify local patterns of inequality and exclusion and ultimately propose specific and concrete policy options. It is therefore essential for these teams to include a focus on an analysis of the national or regional Human Development Index.

National and regional HDR teams are also better placed to enhance the monitoring of challenges in human development at the national or regional level by providing data that are disaggregated to identify disparities across social groups defined by geographical position, religious affiliation, gender, socioeconomic status, or racial or ethnic identity.

It is important to remain attentive for innovative approaches to the measurement of development that respond more accurately to the particular needs of the country or region.

Use might also be made of other indices from the set presented in the most recent Human Development Report.

Additional surveys of critical aspects of human development would also be worthwhile. These might cover human rights, political freedoms, other areas of empowerment, participation, sustainability, human security, or a broader agenda for policy research to respond to national or regional development challenges.

Consult with the Human Development Report Office early about all indicators to ensure that the use is appropriate.

As part of overall planning for the media and communications strategy, decisions should be made now in the selection of appropriate measurement data on human development and the links between these data and specific advocacy objectives.

Table 2 provides a few examples of innovations in the measurement of development realized by HDR teams.

Table 2: Selected Examples of Innovative Approaches to the Measurement of Development
Country/region, year Description
Human Development Index For detailed information on calculating the Human Development Index click here
Argentina, 2002 HDR Broadened the HDI by adding quantitative measurements of infant mortality, unemployment and the quality of education
Colombia, 2003 HDR Adjusted the HDI to include a measure of the effects of violence/td>
Costa Rica, 2005 HDR Adjusted the HDI to explore the relationship between citizen insecurity and human development
Eastern Europe and Central Asia, 2003 HDR Conducted cross-border household surveys of the Roma to create an HDI on the Roma in five countries of Central and Eastern Europe
Mongolia, 2003 HDR Used an HDI that differentiated the population across urban and rural areas and across provinces and cities
Human empowerment index
Dominican Republic, 2008 HDR Created an index composed of a sub-index to measure individual empowerment and a sub-index to measure collective empowerment
Nepal, 2004 HDR Pioneered a human empowerment index to identify impoverished areas and excluded groups and to recommend appropriate policy action
Inequality-adjusted HDI Inequality adjusted Human Development Index
Latin America and the Caribbean, 2010 HDR Used household survey data on 18 countries in the region to develop an inequality-adjusted index of human development
Mexico, 2002 HDR Created an index sensitive to inequalities in income, education and health
Mexico, 2010 HDR Computed an inequality-adjusted HDI for each municipality and then for each state based on the inequalities measured in the municipalities within the state
Multidimensional poverty index For detailed information on calculating the Multidimensional poverty index click here
Colombia, 2011 The Government launched a multidimensional poverty measure that covers a half-dozen dimensions through 15 indicators (the measure is not the focus of an HDR)
Mexico, 2009 The Government launched a multidimensional poverty measure combining two components: social rights and economic well-being (the measure is not the focus of an HDR)
Other indices Gender Inequality Index
Bankura District, West Bengal, India, 2007 HDR Used the human development radar concept to measure and compare eight human development indicators; also measured other indicators
Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2003, 2007 HDRs Undertook a concerted effort at policy monitoring and the use of specially designed indicators on the Millennium Development Goals and on social exclusion
Thailand, 2003 HDR Created a human achievement index that combined 40 specific indicators into eight components of human development

Address the Specific HDR Theme and Related Issues

Identify and implement methods to research the theme. In some respects, these methods might mirror the conceptual framework adopted in the presentation of the analysis of the theme within the written report. (See the production module) The following steps might help:

  • Clearly define the theme and pinpoint key issues related to the theme; establish a conceptual framework linking the theme and human development concerns. This effort should be a natural outgrowth of the initiatives undertaken during the selection of the theme.
  • Carry out a literature review and create and maintain a repository of core documentation from local and external sources on the theme and related issues.
  • Organize consultations and seminars on the theme and related issues. Participants might include readers and internal and external technical experts. The aim should be to identify and explore fundamental aspects of the theme, strategic policies in the area of the theme, relevant experiences in other countries, and sub-themes and other related issues. The consultations should occur in an atmosphere conducive to free-ranging debate on any topic, no matter how sensitive. Such an approach can also advance the advocacy effort and strengthen interest in the HDR process.
  • Conduct interviews and surveys to capture the perspectives of people dealing with the issues analysed in the HDR as part of their daily lives. (Also include those who may traditionally be excluded such as women, the poor, ethnic minorities, inhabitants of remote communities, children, the elderly, people living with HIV/AIDS, the disabled and so on.
  • • Commission experts to conduct background research and produce other background material. Identify local experts who can undertake conceptual research, carry out case studies and surveys to help deepen and broaden the analysis and the coverage of the report. Working with local experts enhances the national ownership of the report and can contribute to local debate, capacity-building and buy-in. In the event that international consultants are also used, involve the steering committee in the selection effort. The output should contribute directly to the content of the evolving analysis as much as possible. One aim should be to promote new knowledge creation.

Undertake a Critical Evaluation of Relevant Government Development Policies

Policy analysis should be a core activity of every HDR. This analysis involves synthesizing information, including research, to scrutinize systematically the causes and consequences of current policies; assess the performance of these policies and produce policy options. An HDR should not avoid difficult or sensitive issues. Sanitizing the analysis or seeking to conform to well-known or accepted positions may mean that important conclusions are missed. It is best to follow the evidence.

To realize sound policy analysis, the report team might consider the following steps:

  • Convene meetings to determine the policy issues that the report will seek to address. Issues that relate to human development in the country in general and to the specific theme of the report should be examined from a policy perspective.
  • Review the effectiveness of previous or current policies. Include an examination of policy-monitoring indicators that may be traced from year to year.
  • Examine traditions, historical and cultural norms, and the social and economic environment to evaluate the local constraints on policy-making.
  • Explore aspects of the regional and global context that broaden or limit government policy choices. Include the policies of other governments and regional or international institutions.
  • Identify policy alternatives. Explore experiences in other countries that are grappling with similar issues under similar circumstances.
  • Establish a benchmark scenario that indicates the outcome if current trends continue undisturbed. Carry out structured analyses of all alternatives, including cost-benefit analyses. For each option, gauge the benefits that will result if an extra X dollars are spent for each extra Y unit of service. Compare trade-offs in resource efficiency across outcomes. Identify potential winners and losers. Project and evaluate the possible micro-level impacts of policy shifts.

Based on the Evidence, Develop Appropriate Report Conclusions

Test the conclusions during consultations and seminars organized on the issues and perspectives contained in the report. All members of the national report team should participate, including readers, technical experts and peer reviewers.

Produce Clear, Concrete and Practical Recommendations

The result of the analysis of national development policies and alternatives should be the generation of solidly grounded, well-considered recommendations. They will promote public debate on development issues and in advocating for government initiatives to foster human development.

  • Each recommendation should include a description and analysis of the basic intervention strategy, list the agencies that would implement the strategy and address the likely financing and other resource needs.
  • The value of the recommendations will depend on the comprehensiveness of the perspectives of the contributors to the analysis, the clarity of the analysis, the practicability of their introduction and the soundness of the consideration of alternative policies.