Enhancing the Social and Economic Impacts of Energy Investments
through the Use of Energy to Create Value
Data Collection Methodology
Sierra Leone, Africa
Clark A. Miller, Saurabh Biswas, Wilbourne Showers, BrieAnne Davis, Nalini Chhetri, Netra
Chhetri, Mary Jane Parmentier, Festus Lansana
Note: This report is part of a package of three reports, which together summarize the results of
the project. The other two reports are:
Summary of Findings and Data
Final Synthesis Report of Research
An Applied Research Project by:
Tempe, Arizona, USA
Freetown, Sierra Leone
Funded under the:
i. Research Design
The study was designed to investigate and produce insights on two interlinked objectives. The
first was to systematically identify the mechanisms creating, impeding or reducing social value
of energy and consequently socio-economic development, enabled by electricity services in
different regions of the country. The second objective was to ensure that research is not only
conducted in a contextually appropriate manner, but also ensure it is conducted with the
participation of relevant actors who shall be in charge of utilizing research findings and
implementing solutions well beyond the project completion. The goal of this two-pronged
research design is to generate an evidentiary basis for decisions on investments in electricity
infrastructure and technologies to enable socio-economic development, while developing
structural capacities to manage knowledge and actions. These include institutional changes,
learning and knowledge management capabilities, inter-agency coordination, enabling policy and
governance needs. This report describes the methodology developed and implemented for the
first set of objectives. For details on the methodology utilized for the second set of objectives,
please see article titled ‘Deconstructing knowledge and reconstructing understanding: Designing
a knowledge architecture for transdisciplinary co-creation of energy futures’.
ii. Research Questions
A systematic understanding of how electricity services in different locations of Sierra Leone
could deliver greater socio-economic value to household and business customers was approached
from three interlinked standpoints for each location:
1. How do people use energy and energy services in their homes to create social value,
and what are the current gaps?
2. What current social and technical systems exist or need to be in place in order to
enable people to use energy services and technologies to create social value?
3. How do public and commercial spaces currently use and may leverage electricity to
generate greater value for the communities they serve?
iii. Data Collection Strategy
Site Selection – Study sites were selected based on inputs received from the project sponsor and
in country stakeholders, covering regions with varying level of electricity infrastructure.
Freetown, Bo, Kenema and Segbwema are the locations where the study was conducted.
Scoping – To develop location appropriate data collection strategy, a preliminary assessment of
each study site was conducted to create a base map and identify potential people and places of
interest to conduct further investigations. The assessment focused on (a) identifiable patterns of
demography, economic activities and livelihood, people movement locally and non-local; and (b)
geography, infrastructure and ecological features of the pace. (Fig.1)
Sample selection – Using the information from scoping the study sites, clusters or
neighborhoods with similar characteristics were identified. Study participants were then solicited
through door-to-door outreach by the project staff. Number of participants in each cluster were
determined considering representation of the diversity identified through scoping.
Implementation – Implementation was carried out according to the following steps:
Confidentiality and Informed Consent: Interviewers were required to inform the respondent
about the study, their rights and voluntary participation, how the information will be kept
confidential, and identities shall be protected, using text approved by the Institutional Review
Board of Arizona State University.
Facilitation and Field work guide: Interviewers were trained to facilitate engagements in
keeping with the methodological principles. A field work guide was provided with guidance on
participant selection, management and implementation of the data collection instrument. (see
Platform: For Freetown, data was collected on paper forms and transcribed to pre-formatted
spreadsheets by the interviewers. For Bo, Kenema and Segbwema, the open-source data
collection platform KOBO Toolbox was used.
Quality control: On-site supervisors carried out real-time quality checks on interviews and focus
group discussions. Data quality checks were carried out during and post data collection phases.
Figure 1. Data Collection strategy
iv. Data Collection Methodology
For each site, a robust set of data was collected to find answers to the three research questions on
the creation of social value of energy. The types of information captured here includes the
everyday practices of energy users and their energy consumption needs1, how energy uses
translate to different kinds if value2, the influence of the design of technologies and infrastructure
on social value3, and the role of financial and regulatory mechanisms om social value4.
Data collection followed a user-centered and deliberative format5,6 that engaged study
participants in reflective and exploratory discussions7. Facilitated by interviewers and with the
assistance of guiding questions, qualitative and quantitative data was collected.
Based on the methodological principles discussed above, the following data collection
instruments were developed and implemented at each study site:
i. Social value of energy mapping for households
Objective: To identify the mechanisms by which energy use creates economic value,
comfort, better social relationships, health etc. or it adds to the burden of poverty.
Such exploration is to be made strictly from the users’ perspective without imposing
biases that restrict critical reflection on correlations between energy use and personal
Method: Engage participants in one-on-one conversations and have them reflect upon
their daily life in order to respond to queries. The engagement location and time must
be carefully chosen according to the needs and constraints of the participant. Use the
questions to guide the conversation.
Choosing respondents: Respondent should be able to reveal the family dynamics and
inputs from all members of the family are welcome. For ease of process, a primary
respondent may be selected while others are around to offer inputs. Husband and wife
can be interviewed together or just the husband with the wife providing inputs
through him. Understand family composition to pose specific questions related to
children, differently abled persons or the elderly in the family.
See questionnaire format (Appendix 2)
ii. Service provider interviews (Electricity service providers, Electrical appliance
retailers, Cooking fuel retailers)
Objective: To understand patterns of services, appliances and fuel consumption in
neighborhoods of study sites. Explore drivers of conducting business in the area given
the social, economic and occupational characteristics of the customer base. Engage in
future projections of expanding services and business opportunities.
Method: Engage participants in one-on-one conversations and have them reflect upon
their business operations in order to respond to queries. The engagement location and
time must be carefully chosen according to the needs and constraints of the
participant. Use the questions to guide the conversation.
Choosing respondents: Respondents should be business owners or operators located
in a chosen cluster. Ensure respondent has access to records if necessary.
See questionnaire format (Appendix 3)
iii. Focus group workshops in public spaces, commercial facilities and essential
Objective: To identify the current state of publicly valuable services and opportunities
for improvement to this public facility using electricity. Understanding preferences on
management, ownership and economics of enhanced services.
Method: Invite pre-identified participants to convene at one of the locations. Location
should be selected from the list of categories identified for the study site. Inform that
this is a semi-structured discussion with the researcher providing the discussion
prompts. Researchers will make notes and/or voice record responses.
Choosing respondents: Select a group of participants representing owner, operator,
manger and users of the facility. Ensure suitable opportunity for everyone to respond
and discuss opinions at length.
See questionnaire format (Appendix 4)
1. Shove, Elizabeth, Mika Pantzar, and Matt Watson. The Dynamics of Social Practice:
Everyday Life and How it Changes. Sage, 2012.
2. Biswas, S. (2020). Creating Social Value of Energy at the Grassroots: Investigating the
Energy-Poverty Nexus and Co-producing Solutions for Energy Thriving (Doctoral
dissertation, Arizona State University).
3. Steen, M. (2016). “Organizing Design-for-Wellbeing Projects: Using the Capability
Approach.” Design Issues, 32(4), 4-15.
4. Miller, C., Moore, N., Altamirano-Allende, C., Irshad, N., & Biswas, S. (2018). Poverty
Eradication through Energy Innovation. Arizona State University.
5. Mulgan, Geoff. “The theoretical foundations of social innovation.” Social Innovation.
Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. 33-65.
6. Cooperrider, D. L., Sorensen Jr., P. F., Yaeger, T. F., & Whitney, D. (2001). Appreciative
Inquiry: An Emerging Direction for Organization Development. Stipes Publishing L.L.C.
7. Wiek, A. (2015). Solving Sustainability Problems – Tools for a New Generation of
Sustainability Professionals. Arizona State University.
Appendix 1 - Site Scoping
Objective - To create a base map of the research site to identify potential people and places of
interest to conduct further investigations. We are looking for (a) identifiable patterns of
demography, economic activities and livelihood, people movement locally and non-local; and (b)
Geography, infrastructure and ecological features of the pace.
Method - Scoping is conducted by means of ‘Transect Walk’, which involves ‘walking’ a path
that cuts through the site of interest. Such a walk would take you through the cross-section of the
place (markets, places of worship, residential areas, commercial districts etc.). You should be
able to create a map of the place and record trends of people’s activities, infrastructure and
movements. Identifying ‘key informants’ – people who can provide initial information, would
help in this process. A geographical map of the place will assist you in planning your path. The
most important skill you will require is to ‘hear, see and document every detail’.
Tools/Accessories: GIS map of the area, key informants, Notebook, Pen/Pencil.
Information gathering – The categories below will guide you in identifying the patterns
necessary to create a scoping map. However, don’t be limited by them and record any interesting
detail outside of the categories.
1. Describing the place:
a. List the important landmarks, geographical features and natural resources.
b. What public infrastructure and services exist?
c. Are there electricity lines?
d. How is the population spread and how do people move round?
e. What administrative offices and government agencies are there?
f. Are there NGO’s, Micro-finance agencies or other public service agencies?
2. Observing Actors, Spaces and Interactions:
Ethnic & regional
Gender & age groups
Neighborhood types and
Businesses, stores and
House types, vehicle
ownership and other
High density places and
Energy supply (electricity,
cooking and transportation
fuel, formal & informal)
Transportation types and
People movement for work
and essential goods.
Tensions and challenges
or clubs and their purposes
Other noteworthy activities
education and skill
development, recreation and
entertainment, food security,
Identify key informants, verify your observations by asking non-leading questions, cross-check
with other key informants and separate opinions from facts.
Scoping conclusions (post transect walk review):
Characterize and profile the place based on your observations above. The goal is to analyze the
features of actors, spaces and interactions such that they help you triangulate
neighborhoods/locations to conduct potential survey and interview.
Appendix 2 - Social Value of Energy mapping for households
1. Questions about respondent family and house details:
1a. Family composition: (Please list all family members below)
S. No. (List
(list activity &
or aids used,
1b. Dwelling profile: Building type _______________________, Year built _______ Ownership ______________
** Mark each appliance with the S. No. of member(s) using it.
1c. Income – Expense: Total family Income per month (optional) ____________________
Expenses: (NOTE: All expenses recorded as Leones per month)
(Le OR %
as % of
** Values can be recorded as Leones, % of total income or both where possible.
1d. Is there a variation in your income based on months/seasons? If yes, please describe here:
Reason for variation
2. Questions about energy use
1. Which of your appliances helps you to:
a. Save time?
b. Reduce effort?
c. Generate income?
d. Reduce costs and save money?
Please explain how.
2. Given the choice, what new appliances would you purchase if you have sufficient funds
for the following purposes:
a. Save time?
b. Reduce effort and hard labor?
c. Generates income?
d. Reduces costs and saves money?
e. Improve comfort, entertainment and communication?
3. In the last 5 years, which appliance (or appliances) has made your work easier, more
productive and enhanced incomes or savings? Please explain how.
4. Do you pay any of the following types of charges in the process of purchasing energy?
Please describe how much and how frequently.
than EDSA bill)
Lighting fuel (if not
Service charges or
5. What appliances need regular repairs? How much does it cost you to repair or replace
damaged appliances? List from high to low.
Cost of repair
Cost of replacement
6. What was the most recent appliance you purchased? Please describe how you made the
7. What factors do you consider when buying a new appliance (please rank the choices as
Important, Somewhat important or Not Important)?
a. Urgent need –
b. Availability of repair and maintenance technician –
c. Retail Cost –
d. Financing assistance (loans, installments, exchange, etc.) –
e. Brand and reputation –
f. Familiarity and reputation of retailer –
g. Energy costs for running the appliance –
h. Other (please specify) –
8. How would you prefer to finance a new appliance?
a. Use cash from everyday expenses
b. Save ahead of time (duration: )
c. Pay in installments (duration: )
d. Get a loan (interest: duration: )
e. Borrow from family or friends
9. Do you minimize the use of appliances due to fuel/electricity costs? Please describe when
and which appliance.
10. Will you pay a higher tariff to EDSA if the supply becomes regular and of better quality
so that appliances are not damaged and better customer service is provided? If yes, how
much more per month (in Leones or %) will you pay?
(e.g. 50,000 Le more or 25% more than what I pay now)
11. How has your total expenses on electricity and fuel changed in the last five years? Please
describe. (describe change in actual fuel cost, transportation, membership fee etc. and
the reasons, for example; increase in family size, larger house, increase in fuel costs etc.)
12. List the top five services from the market (other than energy and food), that are essential
to your livelihood and quality of life (e.g. cell phone, charcoal, bottled water, hardware,
13. How would you rate the following services, on a scale of 0-10 (0 for service non-existent
– 10 very satisfied)?
What can improve (cost, quality, availability, accessibility
Banks and ATM’s
14. Will any of the following add value to your quality of life, incomes and comfort?
Value addition (in what ways and
who in the family will benefit?)
(Le/month OR one-
and information center
Internet based teaching and
Skill development center
(food production, crafts,
equipment repair, internet
Sports and recreational
Laundry machines (washing
Electric cooking appliances
Internet based health services
15. In what ways can quality of life be improved for women in the following areas (ideally
the women should respond)?
What challenges exist?
(availability, cost, quality,
Internet or mobile
physical labor in the
Education and skill
16. Are there any existing services for improving quality of life, which you would like to
Barrier to access
17. Which of the following is required to achieve all of the benefits and desired outcomes
above (check all applicable choices and please explain briefly)?
How will it help you?
Understanding how electricity is used, priced
and bills generated
Knowing how to choose, maintain and operate
appliances for long life and least electricity
Information about different variety and uses of
electrical appliances beyond lights and fans
Financial awareness (Accounting, Banking
facilities and rules, getting loans etc.)
Improved customer service by public sector
service providers (e.g. EDSA)
More stores, service centers and customer
Consumer rights awareness and grievance
Supportive local government bodies
18. Please describe if there is a specific benefit or disadvantage created by current energy
services for yourself, members of the family and the family as a whole?
19. Please recount, if any time in the past you had to cut down on other expenses to buy:
What expense did you cut down
How frequently does the
Mobile phone load
Any other kind of fuel
20. Please recount, if there were extended periods of time (more than 1 day) when you were
Number of occasions in the
last two years
Charge for your
Mobile phone load
Any other essential
21. At your present income, what will be the ideal monthly cost of the following, such that you
can afford them without interruption and cutting down on other essential expenses:
Any other kind of fuel
22. If your monthly family income went up by Le 100,000:
a. Which of your existing appliances would you use more?
b. What new appliances would you buy and use?
c. Your electricity expense will not change but it will become affordable?
d. You would prefer to spend the extra income on other goods and services (please specify)?
23. Can you identify any uses of electricity that would help you increase your income? :
24. If electricity supply improves to become more regular and affordable, how will you use more
a. Improve comfort and quality of your home?
b. Improve education and entertainment opportunities?
c. Reduce physical work for all family members?
d. Improve drinking water and food access?
25. Given all the uses of electricity possible, what would be your preferred source of electricity
Metered connection from
Own Solar power system
Batteries and Solar
26. Would you invest or pay for membership in a local electricity supplier in your neighborhood,
that will locally produce and sell electricity (please elaborate on your choice)?
27. If yes to the previous question, what factors would you consider in making an investment in
3 – Not
Government owned or
happens for rate setting
Part of profits invested
in local development
issues (water, skill
for members to
record of accounts.
28. Which of the following challenges exist in your neighborhood/community/City (check box)?
Air pollution (Dust, Smoke, Vehicle exhaust
Polluted drinking water
Poor drainage system and waste management
Insufficient mobile phone and internet
Petty crime and safety risk
Lack of economic opportunity
29. Which of the following can help solve the challenges?
More street lighting
Waste collection and recycling facilities
Electric public transport
Water filtration plants
Food storage, processing and packaging
30. Are you personally aware of friends or family who had to migrate from a rural area to urban
area or out of the country? If yes, please share what may be the possible factors in the
decision to migrate:
please rank on a scale of 1(low) -10 (high)
Quality of life?
Personal safety and economic security?
Conflict or epidemic?
31. Do you feel improved electricity situation in the region can improve any of the factors above
and prevent migration?
32. Please share how the following areas may be improved to make electricity more affordable,
easy to manage and more useful to your everyday life:
Staff and officials of
Rules and regulations
Installments and loans
Quality of electricity
Appendix 3 - Service Provider Interviews
Type of service ______________
For-profit__/ Not for profit__
Years of operation_____________
1. What are your top three products/services?
Sales (No. Of customers OR Products sold
in a year)
2. How many customers visit your store every month for queries and sales?
3. Are there other stores in the area selling similar products? How would you rate the success
of your business in comparison to those?
4. What are some of the financial arrangements you use?
Credit from suppliers
Short term loan from banks
Sales with installment plans
Bank financing arrangements
5. What percentage of your customers are?
Medium to high income
Low to medium income
Very low to low income
6. Please rank the factors (as Important, Somewhat important or Not Important) that
influence your customers decisions to purchase electrical appliances:
a. Urgent need?
b. Availability of repair and maintenance technician?
c. Retail cost?
d. Financing assistance (loans, Installments, exchange etc.)?
e. Brand and reputation?
f. Familiarity and reputation of retailer?
g. Energy costs for running the appliance?
h. Other (please specify)?
7. In the last three years, what electrical or electronic appliances have shown the following
8. What are some appliances that are frequently damaged and need repairs?
Reasons for damage or repair?
9. If affordability was not a barrier, what are the top three appliances do you think people
would like to buy:
10. What are some of the regulations and banking systems that make doing business easy for
11. What are some of the regulations and banking systems that are barriers to doing and
expanding your business?
12. What are the improvements needed in the following to increase sales of electrical
Electricity availability and quality
Electricity supply company structure and rules
Cost of electricity
13. How can the cost of electrical appliances be reduced for the customers?
b. Transportation costs?
c. Warehousing costs?
e. Government subsidies?
f. Improving electricity supply?
14. What are some electrical appliances that can be manufactured and repairing capacity
created in Sierra Leone? Please share your assessment:
15. How would you like to expand your business? What is required to do so?
16. Do you think local businesses in electricity supply for a neighborhood has potential to
17. Will you want to own or invest in such a business?
18. What kind of training, employees and financial support would you need to establish an
Appendix 4 - Focus Group Workshops at community forums
Workshops prompts and data collection format
Set-up: Researchers will be stationed at a location after obtaining permission from relevant
authority, at public use spaces (Schools & Colleges, Marketplace, Transport hubs, Religious
centers, Health centers, Local govt. offices).
Recruitment and Consent: Researchers will approach the general public, inform and obtain
consent using the verbal consent, which will be displayed in print and verbally communicated.
Data collection: Researchers will make note on paper or voice record responses.
Prompts for conversation:
• How often do you use this facility (insert facility name)?
• Is this place important to you for livelihood OR getting supplies for home OR meeting your
friends and family OR getting services? Please rate its importance on a scale of 0 (lowest)
to 10 (highest).
• Do you use this facility during the day only or even after dark?
• How is this facility productive for you- in terms of recreation, socializing, work, income,
self-development opportunities etc.?
• What are the costs to access this facility and how can they be reduced, without reducing
the quality of service received?
• Do you think the services at this facility can be improved? If yes, how?
• Can electricity help reduce the costs and improve the services? In what ways?
• Do you think a solar energy system for electricity or heating water would be desirable?
• Are you willing to pay an increased fee for the services, provided other costs are lowered
and service quality is improved? If yes, what would be that amount? If no, why?
• What kind of electricity system would work best for this facility? Should it be a government
run, privately run or cooperative run system?
• Are you willing to contribute a onetime fee towards electrification, which can be paid back
to you by deducting fixed amounts every time you use the facility? Please elaborate on
Appendix 5 - Fieldwork guide
Instructions for surveyors
Opening message: Communicate to the participant that the research team is grateful for their
participation despite the difficult times caused by COVID. Their participation is even more
important now, since their inputs will potentially inform some significant policy decisions on
recovery and resilient infrastructure for the immediate future.
• Set the expectation that the questionnaire will be detailed, and we would appreciate their
attention for the full duration of the interview. Request respondents to answer the
questions based on their personal experiences and based on situations that happen in their
family. Ask questions and seek responses that are not generic. This means, we do not
need responses that are a general opinion about the state of things in the neighborhood,
city, or country. Responses should be grounded in concrete experiences and realities of
the respondent’s own life and family.
• Follow instructions in each data collection template and pay attention to questions with
• Please read full questions and follow any accompanying instructions when asking
• Ensure precise answers are entered and under no circumstances, paraphrase or modify
respondents’ answers using your own words. If summarizing a response, double check
with respondent by reading back the entry to them and get approval.
Interviews with unelectrified homes: It is permissible to skip questions related to grid supply
when interviewing unelectrified homes.