About this tool

A situational analysis provides insight into the factors that inform program development and implementation, and the situations of the intended beneficiaries. It looks at the challenges that people face and how these could be addressed, thereby helping to identify appropriate strategies and interventions and how progress can be monitored.

When to use this tool?

  • When planning a gender program in cocoa growing communities
  • When investigating the link between community development, gender issues and cocoa production
  • When assessing whether gender issues are being addressed within a program
  • When seeking to address gender issues in cocoa growing communities

The examples in this case show how the tool can be used to improve conditions for children (girls especially), to strengthen school attendance and completion, and to avoid child labor.

Steps to use this tool

Step 1: Desk study

  • Review of existing data, evidence and research

Step 2: Field work

  • Social mapping
  • Key informant interviews
  • Focus group discussions

Step 3: Data analysis

  • Coding
  • Comparison

Step 4: Formulation of recommendations

  • Recommendations
  • Validation
  • Follow-up

Step 5: Synthesize and Share Results

How did this tool come about?

This tool is based on a situational analysis that was conducted within an educational program in Côte d’Ivoire, to better understand the difference in school access and enrolment of boys and girls. This is the “Specific Age-Group Education & Empowerment System Program” (SAGE²S) which is designed and implemented by the consortium ADM/WCF/IECD/KIT. The steps of the tool are illustrated with examples from this study. More details on SAGE²S are included in the Appendix.

How to use these steps in practice? Reality check

Key points: A comprehensive situational analysis in one context can be representative for similar contexts in the region. In such a case, the existing study findings only need verification and validation, in order to design and prioritize certain interventions.

There are different ways of following the steps in this tool:

Following all the steps in a sequential way: when you start in a new area; where no studies are available yet; or because you are starting a new project with new partners.

Using this tool to mainstream gender into existing project proposals and/or inception activities that are already being planned for and/or implemented.

Following a ‘light’ version of the steps: as a means of verification, when a program is going to be implemented in a similar community, in the same region or same country where a situational analysis has already been conducted. Verifying data can be done through FGDs and KKIs. After the verification, project interventions can be designed (Step 4).


Croppenstedt, A., Goldstein, M., & Rosas, N., (2013). Gender and Agriculture: Inefficiencies,
Segregation and Low Productivity Traps. The World Bank Research Observer. 28, 79-109

FAO (2002). The Group Savings Resource Book – A Practical Guide to Help Groups Mobilize and Manage Their Savings, Chapter 4: Knowing the village, accessed on 25-6-2014 ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/005/y4094e/y4094e.pdf

KIT (2013). KIT Gender and Rights: a Resource Guide, accessed on 3-7-2014: http://www.genderandrights.dk/index.php/acknowledgements


A gender focused situational analysis

A company provided a new water pump for a village somewhere in West Africa. Everybody was excited. Women would save a lot of time and effort as they did not need to carry water to their houses anymore. The water from the pump was clean enough to drink without cooking. However, the new pump was not used by the community. What went wrong?

This is a classic and simple example. Women did not use the water pump because it was in the middle of the village where everybody could see them. Since they also used the water to wash themselves, they continued going to the original place – the river – to get water. Besides this, their walks to the river were part of their daily routine, to get the latest news from their neighbors. It shows in a nutshell how programs can go wrong when we don’t have a better understanding of the local situation, practices, behavior, needs and ideas.

This tool shows how we can better understand the local context with a gender lens by conducting a gender focused situational analysis. It makes clear how local gender relations potentially influence the outcomes of interventions.

Main pillars of a gender focused situational analysis

Gender is mainstreamed in the analysis from beginning to end.

  • A gender perspective allows for an analysis that sees people as active agents of change (see the Appendix for more information about the framework that was used).

Data and research

  • A situational analysis is a mainly qualitative study, in order to gain insight into the context and to consider the experiences and perceptions of different stakeholders in the community.
  • The combination of multiple research methods allows for triangulation of different data sources to deepen the analysis.

Participation and ownership

  • Local ownership and participation are key for a situational analysis, to build consensus on the results.
  • Key stakeholders often include: public partners in the community; local leaders; cooperatives; businesses buying and selling cocoa; service providers in agriculture; teachers and students; men and women working cocoa; parents of children in school; and groups subject to exclusion from basic services such as education.

Replicable in different contexts

  • A comprehensive situational analysis in one context can apply to similar contexts in the region.

Flexible in design

  • A situational analysis is a step-wise process, where each step in the data collection and analysis informs subsequent steps. The process is flexible and unfolds while conducting the study.

A bottom up approach

  • This means that the study focuses on a particular community, and that the findings from one specific situation can then be used for recommendations at other levels (other community, district, regional, national). (Figure 4.1).

Figure 1: How situational analysis at community level can inform interventions at other levels

Figuur tool situational analysis

For SAGE²S, a gender perspective clarified the obstacles boys and girls face in school enrollment. Why do local government, teachers and parents fail to give boys and girls a primary school education?

By mainstreaming gender in the analysis from the beginning, the researcher got information beyond that ‘there aren’t enough schools’, or that schools are not well equipped. It revealed how attitudes of parents, gender relations in the family and behaviour of teachers impact on school enrolment.

Capacity needs of the user

The implementation of the tool requires specific capacities of the users:

  • Capacity to apply a gender analysis and to use existing frameworks like the gender and rights based framework (Appendix 4.1).
  • Capacity to develop and apply qualitative research methods.
  • A neutral perspective, without immediate interests in the project (i.e. the organization conducting the study is not directly involved in the implementation of activities with the community).

According to point 3, a company should hire a third party to conduct the situational analysis. However, if existing project documents are going to be assessed and/or information is only going to be verified in a particular context, company staff are typically able to do the analysis themselves.

The Situational Analysis: A Stepwise Process

The steps of a situational analysis to be explained in more detail here are: 1. Desk study; 2. Field work (Social mapping, key informant interviews and focus group discussions); 3. Data analysis; and 4. Formulation of recommendations. The different steps will be illustrated with examples from SAGE²S in boxes.


Appendix – Example checklists used in SAGE

Appendix – Questions guiding field work in SAGE

Appendix – SAGE2S

Appendix – Social Mapping tool

Appendix – The Gender and Rights Framework

Appendix – Tool for Focus Group discussions

Appendix – Tool for key informant interviews

Step 4: Recommendations, validation and follow-up

Key points:
– Analysis and the development of recommendations should not be done in isolation from the communities and local partners.

Recommendations can be used for both program development and policy formulation. The recommendations are based on the shortcomings identified in the analysis, and indicate what can be done and how to do it. Recommendations should also be based on the capacities of actors in the field, their willingness to participate and the resources available.

A logical final step is therefore to validate whether the results of the situational analysis, and especially the related recommendations, are what people in the communities would like to do, and see as their main needs. The availability of resources and the willingness and potential of different partners to implement some of the activities can also be considered here.

A validation exercise is also useful to further sharpen the recommendations and to develop them into a project proposal. It will help to include project roles and responsibilities in the field and to put a budget for each of the activities. A table format can assist in turning recommendations into specific project activities and objectives.

Table 3: A format for validation

Findings (Local, Regional, National, International)Activity to address the recommendation (try to be as specific as possible).Objective that this activity should contribute to.Who should conduct the activity? The company itself or local partners?What is needed for this? (Money, knowledge, networks, example programs etc.)

Example recommendations from the SAGE²S study

Recommendations at national level

  • Supporting the development of pre-schooling (Early Childhood Education)

Recommendations at district level (focus on local government)

  • Birth registration for all children born
  • Community monitoring of school attendance

Recommendations at community level

Cocoa traders can consider supporting gender aware interventions at local government (commune) level in the following areas:

  • Community monitoring of school attendance
  • Promotion of accountability of the Ministry of Education for quality of education (e.g. not more than 50 children in classroom; no abuse by teachers)
  • Investment in school infrastructure through local government

Recommendations at primary school level

  • Strengthen parental committees, include mothers in those committees, and provide training and advice on how they can help to improve the schools
  • Improve facilities at schools, especially water and sanitation

The activities will then need to be prioritized according to immediate needs and available capacity and resources.

When this tool is used to mainstream gender into existing proposals, the main findings can be listed in the first column of the table. The second column can look at how the gender issues identified in the study may affect already designed interventions. The third column provides ideas on how to address these gender issues in existing activities.

Table 4: Gender mainstreaming into proposals

Findings (Local, Regional, National, International)How gender issues affect existing interventions.How gender can be integrated into existing activities to avoid doing harm.Who should conduct the activity? The company itself or local partners?What is needed for this? (Money, knowledge, networks, pilot, etc.)

Step 3: Analysis

After collecting the data, the next step is to assemble notes and recordings/minutes of the interviews and group discussions. All collected data should be (1) coded and (2) compared. Coding has to be done for the desk study materials, as well as the social map, the key informant interviews and the focus group discussion. The second stage is to analyze and compare the different data and findings.

Coding – Coding means that sections of interviews, FGDs or reports are given a label so that the researcher can trace all relevant sections and bring them together. The labels are partly derived from the research questions. In some cases, labels can also be derived from the data themselves, for instance when new issues are raised or unforeseen answers are provided. This coding can be as specific as the researcher wants. Once data is coded, sections on specific labels or on clusters of labels can be put together in a coding sheet. An example of a coding sheet is given in Table 2. There are also several computer programs that can be used for coding, such as NVivo and ATLAS.ti.

Table 2: Coding sheet for interviews done with people related to the primary schools

Name of respondentGuiding questions of the interviews
Teacher 1 (male)Extracts from the interviews
Teacher 2 (female)
School headmaster

Comparison – once recorded data has been coded, data from different sources can be compared in the analysis. A first level of comparison is to compare the interviews and findings of similar people (such as interviews with teachers, interviews with community leaders etc.). When these are coded in a similar sheet it is easy to compare them, and identify common ground as well as differences.

The second level is comparing the results of the different groups in the community. It is important here to know what issues different groups in the community (parents, teachers, children, men, women and others) have discussed, in order to compare the results and to analyze similarities and differences.

Triangulation helps to validate data (for more information on triangulation go to the next tool on data collection and analysis).

Step 2: Field Work

Key points:
– Drawing a social map is a participatory process. The social map reflects the opinions and interpretations of community members.
– Maximum variation is an important principle in conducting interviews and group discussions: the aim is to have a comprehensive picture of the community, so a wide range of community members and stakeholders should be involved.

The field work consists of two phases. The first phase is to develop a general social profile of the community by developing a social map. The second phase consists of collecting in-depth information through key informant interviews and focus group discussions.

Phase 1 – Social Mapping tool

In a social mapping exercise, a map of a community is drawn together with the people who live there. Community members show where the houses are, what groups of people live in these houses, whether the community is stratified/divided according to different groups, where schools are, churches, mosques, or other important community buildings etc. Cocoa growing fields and fields with other cash crops can also be located on the map, indicating the importance of cocoa versus other crops, for example.

Important to note here is that the social map reflects the opinions and interpretations of community members. For example, it shows community members’ perceptions of the size of a piece of land used for cocoa versus land that is used for other crops. The picture on the right below shows a map that was developed in Amelekia for the SAGE²S; the left example comes from a FAO toolbox (FAO, 2002).

Picture 1: Examples of social mapping



For a social map, it is preferable to have equal representation of different social groups in the community, with each social group represented by approximately 6-8 people. If needed, the mapping exercise can be done with specific groups (e.g. women-only groups). However, variation and representation is important to incorporate the perspectives and positions of a broad range of members and stakeholders in the community, even though this can be challenging.

The results of a social mapping exercise create a better understanding of the local context, and what issues need to be explored further as important factors that affect the issue you are studying (in the case of SAGE, access to and completion of schooling and training). Social maps are also used to assist in the identification of relevant people for interviews, to ensure an equal representation of different social groups. For more specific information on social mapping and the questions that guide the exercise, see the Appendix.

Table 1: Example of the informants interviewed in the SAGE²S

Community relatedCommunity leaders, traditional and formal
School relatedSchool directors
Female and male teachers
Parents in the parent committees in the school
Cocoa production relatedLeaders and members of the cocoa cooperative (m/f), Cocoa service providers
Extension officers
Cocoa producing households, men & womenDiverse selection of cocoa producers (workers, landowners, big versus small etc.) Children on the cocoa farm (landowners' children, workers' children)
Other stakeholdersRepresentatives of grassroots organizations
Cocoa companies

Phase 2 – Key informant interviews and focus group discussions

A Key Informant Interview (KII) is an in-depth interview of an individual selected for their first-hand knowledge about a topic of interest. The key informant interviews are conducted using interview guides that are formulated before the start of the fieldwork. Specific questions in the interview guide must be aligned to the overall research questions of the situational analysis. In the field, the interview guide can be further developed and adapted for interviews with different categories of informants. There is no standard format for an interview guide. An example is provided in the Appendix.

Interview guides should employ open questions, which allow informants to share their experiences and perspectives. The interviewer should frame questions spontaneously, probe for information, and take notes.

The selection of informants must take account of the purpose of the situational analysis. Again, maximum variation is an important principle. It makes sense to think of different clusters of stakeholders, and then further specify different groups and individuals within them.

A focus group discussion (FGD) is a carefully planned discussion on areas of interest, conducted in a permissive, non-threatening environment.

When a community development program is designed, focus group discussions are very useful in exploring different views, opinions, challenges and needs among different groups within the community that will be involved in the change process. It generates information and in-depth explanations that cannot be gathered through questionnaires, whilst informing and involving community members in the development program.

The Appendix provides details of data collection, including a checklist for interviews and interview questions. In the FGD Guide for Gender Self-Assessment appendix, there is additional information on important principles in an FGD.

For the SAGE²S situational analysis, protocols were developed for the social mapping exercise and focus group discussions. They included a series of questions on what people considered major constraints and opportunities for girls and boys in going to school. The group was first asked to come up with different reasons, and each participant then individually ranked each reason by allocating a number of pebbles or cocoa beans. For sensitive issues (e.g. violence in schools), another participatory rapid appraisal technique, blind voting, was used.

The data from notes and recordings was coded and compiled in Excel sheets for analysis, such as comparing and contrasting. Triangulation was used between methods and between key informants on emerging issues.

Step 1: Desk study

When the research questions and objectives are clear, the situational analysis begins with a review of existing data, evidence and research related to the subject matter and the geographical context of the study. This first assessment can be directed towards different geographical levels (local, regional, national) and their inter-linkages. The results of the desk study will:

  • Provide (some) answers to the research questions,
  • Help to identify knowledge gaps
  • Further inform questions for field data collection and the development of data collection methods.

A desk-study may provide sufficient information, making further steps unnecessary. Likewise, if a similar study has already been conducted not all remaining steps may need to be taken. Some relevant studies are provided in the reference section of this tool.

In SAGE²S, the objectives of the desk study were:

  • To get an overview of the education system (primary, secondary, vocational training) in Côte d’Ivoire.
  • To understand the current situation in Côte d’Ivoire regarding access to and completion of primary, secondary and vocational education or training by boys, girls, men and women.
  • To get an overview of what education policies exist and efforts to improve the situation by government, international organizations, cooperatives, grassroots organizations, companies etc.

These objectives were translated into specific questions guiding the literature review:

Questions guiding desk study on the national context of Côte d’Ivoire:

  • What are the enrolment and drop-out rates of (adolescent) boys and girls in different levels of education and the reasons for that?
  • Are there specific policies to address gender gaps in education? What are the strategies and what are the effects?
  • What are the major gender issues in farming (systems) that combine food production with cocoa production and other cash crops, especially in the region where SAGE is implemented?
  • What are the child labor issues in the cocoa sector? What is known about differences between boys and girls in terms of child labor? Is there a link between being engaged in child labor and dropping out of school? Is this the same for boys and girls?
  • What is the food and nutrition security status of children, adolescents and adults in cocoa producing areas and how are the linkages understood?