Background: In 2012–2013, a budget commitment of AUD 128.7 million made the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) one of the largest bilateral grant aid donors to the Philippines. AusAID provided support to the Philippines in a number of critical areas including education, governance, humanitarian and disaster response, community development, scholarships and the strengthening of civil society. AusAID’s programs operate in nine provinces — mainly in Mindanao and the Visayas regions — and were delivered by a wide range of actors, as well as providing funding to multilateral agencies.
In 2013, AusAID engaged Sustineo to undertake a perception survey in the Philippines. The objective of the survey was to collect important information on knowledge and attitudes towards AusAID programs to inform the development of a communications strategy. Sustineo worked closely with its Philippines partner, DevConcepts PH, to deliver this project. This was bolstered by DevConcepts PH’s strategic partnership with the Research Institute for Mindanao Culture (RIMCU) at Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro City, who had significant experience designing and delivering surveys in central and southern Philippines.
Approach: Sustineo employed a mixed method approach to this assignment, drawing on the complementary strengths of both quantitative and qualitative data collection methods to assess the knowledge, attitudes and practices towards the Australian aid program in the Philippines. A baseline survey of 800 householders across 10 provinces was undertaken (Agusan del Sur, Aklan, Bohol, Bukidnon, Davao del Norte, Guimaras, Misamis occidental, Misamis Oriental, Surigao del Norte, Taguig). This was based on a stratified, multi-stage, probability proportional to size research design. Samples were drawn from the general population, as represented by randomly selected urban and rural barangays, and from barangays that had an AusAID project. The survey was developed based on best practice perception survey methodology drawing on a number of different strategic communication approaches. The survey instrument was intensively piloted, with pre-testing demonstrating very high survey validity.
Key informant interviews and focus group discussion (FGDs) were also undertaken. These documented the perceptions of seniors, people with disabilities, women, and male farmers and fishermen across six provinces. These discussions explored the level of awareness and knowledge of AusAID projects in the community, perceptions and attitudes towards AusAID programs and Australia, and behaviour and practices toward AusAID programs. Overall, 18 focus groups were conducted with 217 individuals. Thirty-two key informants were interviewed, including Provincial government officials, barangay officials, and Civil Society Organisation representatives, as well as heads of organisations with links to the Australian government and/or recipients of AusAID support, and national level Philippines government staff.
Outcome: The Sustineo team worked closely with our local partners to deliver a rapid and comprehensive survey across the Philippines within an ambitious schedule and within budget. The strength and validity of the data means that the survey could be conducted again in follow-up research, using the initial results as a highly credible baseline. The interviews and FDGs added important nuance to interpreting the survey findings and key messaging from the project. Based on the data, Sustineo provided a set of recommendations to inform a communication strategy for the AusAID program in the Philippines, on areas that need improvement, refinement, and/or reinforcement, in anticipation of future monitoring and evaluation activities.