> THE TIMOTHY SCHWARTZ ARCHIVE

Frequency Listing Report

Frequency Listing (Freq Listing) is a statistically robust methodology for identifying local leader- experts (notab) and ultimately humanitarian aid beneficiaries. It comes to us from anthropology and mathematical models for studying informal sector and non-literate cultures and rests on the premise of “Culture as Consensus.” More precisely, the premise is that,

a) any given claim by someone who shares knowledge of a cultural-specific category or domain with others has a certain probability of being true,

which gives way to the corollary,

b) the more people who share cultural knowledge of that domain and support the claim, the more likely the claim is true.

This rather simple postulate has profound statistical implications. Anthropologists have used it to create algorithms that, almost as if by magic, are able to generate answer keys for true/false, fill-in- the-blank, and multiple-choice questions (see Textbox 1). This is done without ever knowing what the questions are. Similarly, the same algorithms allow us to identify most knowledgeable experts in unknown domains. For example, we can identify most knowledgeable healers, hunters, farmers, fisherman and, not least of all, beneficiaries for aid programs. Regarding aid programs, exactly who is a beneficiary, can be based on a wide variety of objectives that call for different criteria. If increased agricultural production is the objective, then we target farmers with land. If increased fishing harvests is the objective, then we target fisherman with boats. Freq-listing is useful for these and any other type of targeting. As will be seen, it provides humanitarian aid agencies with a network of reliable key informants located throughout the geographical area of interest. These key informants can be drawn on to identify almost any imaginable category of beneficiary. Freq-Listing offers an alternative to using traditional community based targeting, committees composed of political, economic, and religious functionaries who locals often do not identify as legitimate representatives of the community.