Interviewing Clients in Lusaka: Dispatch from FINCA Zambia

> Posted by Eleanor Coates
In this post, Eleanor Coates writes from Zambia with early thoughts about her experience as a FINCA fellow.
FINCA’s Client Assessment Tool is used to study clients, their lives, consumption, their well-being and quality of life. As a fellow, I underwent the week of training in Washington DC in the bustling K Street office, where our task seemed straightforward: go into the field and interview clients using the tool. We were told to expect to do about seven interviews a day, and sometimes more. We were told to expect to have a steep learning curve. We were told to expect things not to go according to plan. Enter Zambia.
The clients are centered around markets, so every day we go with a new loan officer to a new market in Lusaka. Some markets are markedly more chaotic than others. Our first interviewing experience with real clients took place at the clean and calm Chalston Market, with patient clients who sat with us for upwards of two hours, answering our somewhat awkwardly personal questions about their health, their families, their toilet type. The next day found us winding under tunnels and across train tracks to a plastic-bottle-paved market in the center of town. Now, with a full week of interviews under our belts, we are gaining confidence and speed with the interviews, learning when to speed up and when to slow down, when ask more questions and when to accept the stories for what they are. We have learned not to anticipate any aspect of the process, and to enjoy the variety that we have encountered. From one day sitting in the dusty back yard of a village banking client’s home after a half hour walk to the very outskirts of town, to perching on a pile of textiles in the back of a crowded tailors shop. Trekking across Lusaka every day, from the chaos and shade of Kamwala market to the wide and winding rows of the Garden market, the unexpected is what makes this experience so rewarding.