The Diaries method was initially developed by David Hulme at the University of Manchester. The method has been applied in Bangladesh, India, and South Africa (Collins et al. 2009), in the United States (Morduch and Schneider, undated), in Mozambique, Pakistan, and Tanzania (Anderson and Ahmed 2016), and in Scotland, and has been applied in a pilot project in Canada (Buckland et al. 2013). It is variously fashioned – sometimes more quantitative-focused and sometimes using mixed methods – to intensively track participant household finances for a period of time in order to understand the financial reality of low-income and vulnerable middle-income households that may otherwise be poorly understood through standard research methods.

In addition to the Financial Diaries, this research will include two other components: regulation research and practitioner research. All three components will employ a mixed methodology, drawing on quantitative and qualitative methods. The Financial Diaries will be the largest component; the regulation and practitioner research will both emerge from and inform the Financial Diaries component.

This project will develop a unique Financial Diaries methodology that will use mixed methods, involving different educational interventions, and a “burst” design. The burst design, choosing key periods in the year (e.g., around key holidays) instead of tracking participants’ data year-round (Stawski et al. 2016), will reduce the data collection requirements and enable the project to collect data for several years. The mixed method approach will include surveys, interviews, focus groups, and participatory workshops. The core quantitative Diary questions will ask participants to report, on a weekly basis, about income, spending, saving, and borrowing. Monthly and quarterly interviews will ask participants to reflect on their finances, the Diaries process, and how these relate to their life goals. These interviews will involve open-ended questions in which participants can share about challenges and opportunities with their finances, discuss how the Diaries process is affecting them (or not), and share about their longer-term financial and life goals. Focus group discussions will be scheduled after each burst period to hear from groups’ more collective thoughts about financial challenges and how these might be addressed through changed practice or policy.

Links to important diaries projects or completed materials: