News • Europe
April 4, 2023
Event takeaways: Diaspora skills profiling – a new methodology

To celebrate the publication of the step-by-step methodology on profiling diaspora skills, piloted through EUDiF’s DP4D Action with Madagascar, on 16 March we invited the researchers and special guests to discuss tips and tricks on how to profile diaspora skills. Read on for the key takeaways…

The diaspora has significant potential to contribute to a country’s economic, social, and scientific development. To harness skills within a diaspora, it is crucial to gain a better understanding of its characteristics. The Directorate of Diaspora and Migration Affairs in Madagascar therefore sought the assistance of EUDiF to enhance its ability to engage with the diaspora and identify skill sets that could help address the country’s structural needs, noting the importance of regularly profiling the diaspora and developing the necessary tools and in-house capacities to achieve this objective.
Consequently, a new diaspora skills profiling methodology was produced between November 2021 and November 2022 as combined research and Diaspora Professionals 4 Development (DP4D) action. The methodology was then tested with the Malagasy diaspora in France and Switzerland in a six-week period. Over 800 responded to the survey, making it the most extensive ever conducted on the Malagasy diaspora.

At the results webinar on 16 March, we invited the research team to share their insights from the action. Dr. Agathe Randrianarisoa (Directrice, Anjara Research & Consulting and Associated researcher, IRD-DIAL), Dr. Mireille Razafindrakoto, (Research Director, IRD-DIAL) and Ms. Jessie Razafison (Director of the Directorate of Diaspora and Migration Issues) talked through the methodology and pilot. Ms. Keit Spiegel (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia) acted as a discussant and shared Estonia’s experience conducting a similar data collection exercise.

After following the discussion, our Diaspora Youth Intern Carolina shares her highlights from the Madagascar example. From preparation to data protection to communication and more, there’s a lot to take on board to make the most out of skills profiling…

Preparation is key

Comprehensive preparation for data collection involves a series of steps to determine the necessary requirements, strategies for effectively approaching respondents, and well-designed survey questions. In order to optimize the project team’s existing networks and capacities, it was imperative to first establish the study’s key terms, the ministry’s expectations, and the required skill development needs.

Data protection & trust building

The Malagasy diaspora’s caution towards their authorities may have hindered some participation. Respondents raised questions about how the data would be handled and used by government authorities. To minimize the impact of such concerns on the survey, the data was collected anonymously and GDPR rules were scrupulously followed. Email addresses given by participants were only be used for the purpose to which they agreed, in this case, sending survey results. Failure to comply with GDPR rules could lead to a loss of trust and hinder future engagement with the diaspora.
Moreover, the involvement of ICMPD, independent researchers, and diaspora ambassadors (i.e. prominent people from the diaspora itself, or diaspora organization members) bolstered trust in the survey by providing “distance” and independence from the national authorities.

Communication counts

To maximize outreach to the diaspora during the collection stage it is crucial to use all available communication channels. It is crucial to identify primary communication channels and disseminate information about the survey in a personalized and specific manner. It can help to establish or boost relationships with key members of the diaspora, while also extending efforts to engage individuals beyond those networks. 

The Madagascar project’s approach to dissemination was multi-channel (email, social networks and WhatsApp groups) and multi-actor (diaspora reference persons, organisations, associations, and embassy networks). 

Within the Malagasy context, terms such as ‘diaspora’ or ‘diaspora competencies’ are not commonly used or understood, which can discourage potential respondents or miss individuals who do not recognize themselves as “diaspora”. Therefore, the project team used clear and straightforward language to convey the survey’s purpose.

Using motivational phrases such as, “Your participation will contribute to the growth of Madagascar” and “You will make a difference” also helped empower respondents and increase the feeling of belonging. 

In addition, the team sought to capitalise on ongoing events, such as the Independence Day celebrations to attract even more respondents. No financial incentives were offered. Instead, the focus was on tapping into the willingness to support Madagascar.

How to reach beyond the “usual suspects”?

One obstacle faced during the data collection was finding effective means to engage with individuals who were not affiliated with diaspora organizations, consulates, or other community groups. Overcoming this challenge required thinking creatively and devising innovative strategies that capitalised on the unique characteristics of the Malagasy diaspora. The most effective approach came in the form of posts by individuals and organisations on social media, with LinkedIn being a huge catalyst. A staggering 92% of respondents heard about the survey through social media, and 52% reported receiving the information via private email messages.

Beyond skills, willingness wins

In both skills profiling exercises in Estonia and Madagascar, including questions about general attitudes in addition to skills and competencies enabled analysis that delves deeper into the diaspora’s relationship with their country of origin. This included insights into motivations to participate in the development of the country of origin. By incorporating such questions, it is possible to develop a more nuanced understanding of the diaspora’s attitudes and behaviors. This can, in turn, inform the development of more effective strategies and policies aimed at engaging and mobilising diaspora communities for national development purposes.

What’s next?

The next step for Madagascar is to develop strategies for skills transfer and further implement existing national diaspora engagement policy and strategies. The data collected will give substance to the development of such schemes.

The sustainability of profiling exercises is paramount and Madagascar, Estonia and any other country profiling its diaspora should be cognisant of the need to repeat the exercise to keep the data alive and relevant. Of course, this takes commitment and resources. In the EUDiF methodology, by involving the national authority from beginning to end in implementing the methodology, internal competencies were developed which allow them to update results and conduct similar activities in the future. This is a system strongly recommended to other national authorities.

Do you want to know more about the Malagasy diaspora in France and Switzerland? A forthcoming webinar will discuss the skills profiling results on May 16.

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