Pocket Chart Voting is a multipurpose participatory tool that, depending on the purpose, can be used as a complementary assessment or monitoring tool to generate (sensitive) information, recognise patterns, give voice to different members and groups, stimulate discussion, identify differences in experiences and opinions and encourage action on hygiene issues.
Pocket Chart Voting allows participants to anonymously identify and explore sensitive hygiene topics that they may otherwise be too embarrassed to discuss. It is based on a matrix consisting of a horizontal row for the different voting issues and a vertical row often used to represent the focus or target groups. The issues/topics to be voted upon can be presented visually (e.g. pictures, drawings); each one must be explained so that every participant has a full understanding of the issue prior to the voting. The tool is often used to disclose sensitive, taboo or even shameful topics (e.g. defecation practices or menstrual hygiene-related issues); anonymity/privacy must be guaranteed during the voting so that everybody feels comfortable enough to vote honestly. The matrix often consists of open envelopes or pockets for each category in which participants can place their votes. Alternatively, receptacles such as cardboard voting boxes, bowls, or jars can be used. Counters, slips of paper, stones, or seeds are used to cast the votes. The voting usually takes place behind a board or screen so that individual voters cannot be seen while voting. Counting of the votes takes place publicly however and the generated information should be used as a basis for further discussions with the participants. The size of the group should be large enough to ensure the anonymity of the results and small enough that the actual voting process does not become too lengthy.
Pocket Chart Voting is easy to use and can be used in all response phases and in many different settings. It can be used during Focus Group Discussions T.14 or other community meetings. It is important to have a facilitator with previous experience in using the pocket chart. Pocket charts can be made out of locally available material. Prefabricated versions also exist.
Test the voting exercise first using a very simple question to ensure that all participants have understood the matrix and method
Use locally-recognisable pictures and graphics so that the participants can relate to them
Ensure anonymity during the voting process
Do not hold multiple voting rounds, otherwise the exercise becomes too lengthy
Do not forget to share and discuss the results with participants
Pocket Chart Voting was used in Sierra Leone to explore gender roles in relation to sanitation. Voting was first conducted about where men, women, boys and girls preferred to defecate. A discussion followed about how young children often went behind the latrines in the school because they were scared of going inside the dark latrine. Voting also revealed that women often went to the public latrines in pairs for safety and to prevent disturbance, as there were no door locks. Subsequent voting exercises with teenage girls revealed their preferences for different menstrual products and other hygiene items. The agency adapted its intervention to meet the needs more effectively.
Dayal, R., van Wijk, C. et al. (2020): MetGuide. Methodology for Participatory Assessments with Communities, Institutions and Policy Makers. Linking Sustainability with Demand, Gender and Poverty, IRC
House, S., Ferron, S. et al. (2014): Violence, Gender and WASH. A Practitioner´s Toolkit. Toolset 4-E Methodologies for Working With Communities. Pocket Chart Voting and Participatory Ranking, WaterAid, SHARE
Srinivasan, L. (1990): Tools for Community Participation: A Manual for Training Trainers in Participatory Techniques. PROWESS/UNDP Technical Series, UNDP PROWWESS. ISBN: 0-912917-20-2.