In Ukraine, giving voice to the beneficiaries through an ethnographic study


Here is an extract from Danone Ecosystem latest Newsletter. The Danone Ecosystem Fund was created in 2009, and is intended to strengthen and develop the activities of the partners who make up Danone’s ecosystem: farmers, suppliers and subcontractors, transport and logistics operators, distributors, territories & local authorities….


Reblogged from Danone Ecosystem:


In 2010, ecosystem launched an ethnographic qualitative study on the «Ukraine milk communities» project*. this qualitative type of study is part of the impact measurement process launched by the Fund. Marc Abélès, who conducted the study with his team on the field and Dario Marchetti, Danone Ukraine general manager, come back on the benefits of such an approach.


Can you briefly describe the aims and the approach of the ethnographic study on this project?


Marc  Abélès: Originally, the idea of the ethnographic study was to find a way to give voice to the local population and to be a kind of communication tool that aims at improving inter-cultural and inter-organizational communication. We base our approach on the observations of practices and we conduct interviews. It allows us to study the ways in which the local context is impacting the project as well as the different understandings of key aspects of the project held by the different actors.


What are the most important learnings of the study and their main impacts on the project design or management?


Dario Marchetti: the study helped us to understand how the development of cooperatives is impacted by past soviet life, as well as the social organization of the villages.

Marc Abélès: indeed, the cooperatives of the milk communities project were associated to the kolkhozes by the local villagers.

Dario  Marchetti: it helped us on three other axes:

the understanding of beneficiaries’ expectations that could be addressed by the project; the adaptation of our milk pricing system to local culture and finally the importance of leadership within our cooperatives.

Cooperatives leaders are key: they know how to interfere between members, Heifer and Danone… We need to be much closer to them, to support them, not only through technical training but also through leadership training.

Marc Abélès: the cooperative leader is a key actor as he embodies a link between the «inside» and the «outside» of the village.


Do you plan to carry out this kind of study again at the end of the project? What are the next steps in terms of social impact measurement?


Marc Abélès: the next step would be to extend this work to a comparative perspective, by studying several projects implemented in different regions of the world. This would allow us to have a synthetic vision and to establish a situation grid that can be used directly for the development of Danone Ecosystem field initiatives.

Dario Marchetti: the ethnographic study helped to give us the human and qualitative dimensions. I hope that we can repeat it 2 or 3 years from now, as the learnings were enriching to myself and all the team.

You can find the original article here.

*the “Ukraine milk communities” project aims at reinforcing the activity of small milk producers by developing milk cooperatives regrouping micro farms, with the help of Heifer-ukraine, the ngo partner on the project.

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