Interviewing key community members and representatives is a useful method for gathering information on important issues such as WASH norms and practices in a specific context.
Key Informant Interviews can be unstructured (a free-flowing discussion) or semi-structured (using pre-prepared questions). It is useful to interview people with a range of perspectives, expertise, local knowledge and an overview of the context, such as respected leaders, elders, the heads of women’s groups, health workers and teachers. Informants are asked to share what they know about the situation, e.g. a health worker can describe morbidity trends in the area, or a women’s leader may have information about children’s health and hygiene. Responses are cross-checked by conducting several interviews with different informants. The interviewers should have good communication skills (including sensitivity, empathy, listening skills) and be trained to use a question checklist and explore the topic. Interviewers should take notes and may need to work with an interpreter. The Key Informants should be encouraged to talk freely and take the lead in the discussion. As time allows, the range of informants can be increased. Notes of the conversation should be summarised at the end, checking that the participants agree with the key points noted. Although normally carried out face to face, interviews can be done by phone, online or using message apps. Data analysis can help to identify questions and topics for further exploration. The main advantage of Key Informant Interviews is that it is quick, few resources are needed and it is an efficient way of getting local knowledge. A disadvantage is that the interviewee may not represent the whole community.
Key Informant Interviews can be used at any time during the response and in most contexts to gather information and feedback. Key Informant Interviews can be done quickly, (a maximum of 90 minutes per interview) and are often used as a rapid assessment tool (chapter A ).
Get a diverse mix of Key Informants
Be aware that people may tell the interviewer what they think the interviewer wants them to say
Ask people at the end of the interview if they have any questions to ask
Do not use leading questions, e.g. ‘when do you wash your hands with soap?’
Do not raise expectations but be transparent about what is possible
Do not ask irrelevant questions. Keep to the topic
During a monitoring visit for a flood response operation, the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society (SLRCS) conducted several Key Informant Interviews with those affected, including the head teacher and the men responsible for the operation and cleaning of latrine facilities. The interviews were combined with Observation T.28 and Focus Group Discussions T.14, to deepen the understanding of the issues. The team observed piles of garbage in and next to the school premises and discovered that the presence of menstrual waste (used sanitary pads) prevented men from cleaning the venue. Subsequently, the SLRCS implemented a participatory behaviour change approach at the school to solve problems with menstrual waste and promote improved menstrual hygiene management.
Almedom, A., Blumentahl, U. et al. (1997): Hygiene Evaluation Procedures. Approaches and Methods for Assessing Water- and Sanitation-Related Hygiene Practices, ODA, INFDC, LSHTM, UNICEF
ACAPS (2011): Technical Brief: Direct Observation and Key Informant Interview Techniques, for Primary Data Collection During Rapid Assessments
Ferron, S., Morgan, J. et al. (2007): Hygiene Promotion. A Practical Manual for Relief and Development, Practical Action Publishing. ISBN: 978-1853396410
SSWM (undated): Semi-Structured Interviews