There is a definite need for collaboration on unreached people research. Several research efforts are working independently and have attempted many times to collaborate. We need to think about what it is that we trying to accomplish? Can we continue to work independently on small teams or can we develop a community of researchers working together. Maybe we can have both but are we investing our efforts wisely? Here is a proposal:
The following document is a response to an email to a gentleman planning the research tract of a mission’s conference in 2010. Hello M, forgive me for taking so long in responding. I have been busy with Etnopedia. I did not receive the Research Question #2 email. I may be interested in that email but it is really the first question I am most interested in and most qualified to participate on.
1. Assessments of what remains to be done to make disciples out of every people group
This needs to be a collaborative effort. A friend at the Joshua Project, another from the IMB research and myself are dialoging and testing some ways this can be done on the Internet through the use of a “centralized people list”. This utilizes the Harvest Information System’s ROP3 code. You probably know about the ROP3. It is the only code that links all our databases together on the people group level. This type of collaboration isn’t an easy task, but through it, we are going to answer part the first research question. I say part because it will only be answered on the peoples that we know exist. Once we answer the first question, then we have a foundation / basis by which we can answer some of the other questions, (new models, coordination among missions organizations etc.). All those will be more efficient once we have a more accurate centralized people list. Even then, we will only be able to focus on about 70% to 75% of the worlds known people groups.
Collaboration on a centralized people list involves two basic areas:
A. Identifying where major research efforts people lists are in agreement and where they are not. Major research efforts come together and discrepancies are worked out by collaboration on the centralized list. Where the major people lists do not agree will still be shown. This is important as some people groups may then be brought into the one another’s people lists as a result. The major research efforts might begin to argue that “they view peoples differently”. This is where (if we are truly going to collaborate), major research efforts will have to bend on some issues and personal perspectives. If a major research effort collaboration does not happen, there will be no centralized list and you will have to continue to choose which brand (perspective) of people list you want. Jim H. at the IMB calls the centralized people list “the convergence list”. Gaining a convergence list only solves the problem temporarily. The collaboration effort will only work as long as they collaborate. But eventually the solution to maintaining a convergence list is to facilitate an international multi-lingual community. I will talk about this later in the document.
B. Developing a process by which newly identified peoples can be added to the centralized list. This is much more important than part (A) although (A) is needed to get to this part (B). We need a way to collaboratively add and see all the newly identified peoples in one place. All the sending entities and movements long for this. We need a place to see all the new peoples added by the Joshua Project, the IMB, MANI, IMA and AMTB and so on. The problem is that right now, if the Joshua Project adds 100 new peoples, they may or may not ever be seen or added to the IMB people list and vice-versa.
So there is a need for the first step, (A): Major research efforts collaborate. The holders of world people lists and even regional lists collaborate on the centralized list. The purpose is to confirm the peoples that exist on each list, and to identify the peoples that exist on one list and not on another.
Then there is a need for step (B): Develop a way to add newly identified people. I believe that in order to accomplish both steps we need to develop an international multi-lingual community of researchers who collaborate together. While collaborating in the community they are also building their unreached people information that they own and immediately use in their own local mobilization. This is where Etnopedia comes in. It provides an excellent place for a centralized list to take shape while it becomes useful immediately useful. Surveys have shown that unreached people information in other languages is also longed for.
Etnopedia attempts to show all the people groups from all the different lists and perspectives. It is also the most sophisticated tool for this type of work. It handles the dynamic of “it gets messy before it gets accurate” and was built to accomplish just that. It is also development funded by millions of dollars and has user manuals in many languages. It is almost as if this tool was made for the Christian research community.
Etnopedia does not have a complete list of known people groups. Currently the project is focusing on translation of unreached people information and therefore it does not have a complete list. This could be remedied, possibly in a year or less if a team were gathered and focused to complete the known people group list. Then Etnopedia could be used as the centralized list as well as the meeting place where an international multilingual community comes together. Never the less, I have not been able to convince the major research efforts to collaborate there. It is just too simple.
*Firstly, you cannot filter and sort the Etnopedia database as you can with access or excel. You can sort and filter Etnopedia and it is a database, but not like access. Only about 2% of the Christian movement is interested in unreached peoples. So I am curious to know how many of them do research and how many of those use access? I am not trying to be disrespectful, just stating the statistics.
*Secondly, the research movement has perspectives on populations of people groups by each country they live in that Etnopedia could show, but has chosen not to after analyzing the data. The data clearly shows that these perspectives add too much complexity when you desire to facilitate collaboration of large research community.
**For one, we do not really know the populations of the people groups, and or the data is very old or generated by queries, formulas, estimates or percentages of world population growth. You cannot force the worlds “estimated” population into the 10,000 known people groups when there are many more peoples we have not identified. It inflates the population of the known people groups in our list.
**We cannot know the real population of a people group. Even where there exists fairly good (highly political) governmental statistics. Many countries do not have the infrastructure for census taking. Or census data is almost always at least 10 years old.
**We cannot split the people groups into every country they live in, showing reached status in each country they live in and simplify the collaboration effort enough to facilitate large community. The answer is simple. If a people group has a significant barrier to the Gospel because they live in two countries, they need to be two separate people groups in our list. We are not trying to create the most anthropologically correct people list. Wikipedia is well on the way to accomplishing that. We are however, trying to identify the points of missionary sending need. (See the traditional definition of people group for evangelization purposes: http://en.etnopedia.org/wiki/index.php/Research:Etnopedia%27s_definition_of_a_people_group)
The major research efforts databases grow in record size by almost one third because of 250 (mainly reached) mega peoples. Example; the Han Chinese Mandarin who take up over 100 records in the database, thus adding 100 reached status scales and 100 different populations by every country they live in. Then add the French, the British and others and the records grow beyond what a small team can actually handle. So the question arises, what is more important? Developing an international multilingual field research community, or continuing to build and compare complex databases that cannot track migration or know populations by country anyway? If you study the major research efforts lists, most all people groups live in one country and speak one language. The reality is that they actually do not, but this is what our efforts have been able to track so far. All the major research efforts people lists show that 8,000+ of the approximate 10,000 known peoples live in only one country. The people by country perspective could easily be surrendered in order to build a community.
Independent Collaboration or Community Collaboration?
The part (A) collaboration process can work in two ways. We collaborate and compare the major world and regional people lists and continue to work independently, or we collaborate and compare the major lists while building a global research community. It needs to be clear that major research effort collaboration on a centralized list temporarily fulfills a need unless we build a community.
This does not mean that all the major research efforts disappear and work in one place although this would be ideal. Unfortunately we do not live in an ideal world. It simply means that there is one centralized list, people group list (or place) that shows us where the different databases agree and shows their newly identified peoples. Again, more importantly, this is done while it builds community that will be able to maintain and expand the list.
I’m inventing a phrase here called “independent collaboration“. Independent collaboration is where the major research efforts collaborate but continue to work independently during and after. This is not only extremely inefficient, but would require a tremendous amount of work and time, and in the end we would still have a few small teams trying to keep up with all their independent changes. Furthermore, the public will still have to pick and choose which research effort they think is most accurate. Community collaboration, on the other hand, will exponentially grow and improve the people list.
Presently, the key to collaboration (independent or community) is the ROP3 people code and accomplishing the first steps (A) mentioned above. But this hasn’t been achieved. So I call for community collaboration just like I believe you are calling for this as you present your first most important question. (1. Assessments of what remains to be done to make disciples out of every people group.)
In summary, independent collaboration presents ongoing difficulties because the major research efforts will continue to work independently of each other during and after the collaboration. It’s a logistical nightmare.
The challenge to everyone involved in research is to rethink what it is that we actually want to achieve by collaborating a centralized people list? Whatever process comes about will be extremely intensive and take a spiritual breakthrough to get going. The collaboration idea has been around for many years. We very aware of the need and the challenges it poses. Still we need to think about the outcome. What do we want to accomplish?
Many of the issues that independent research efforts face in collaboration have been solved during the arduous development of Etnopedia. I believe that in order to have a collaborative community effort, your project must be simplified to some extent.
Importance of Field Driven Research
The project must also involve field research efforts (or at least their data) and it must be in other languages. Another key concept is that it must respect the field researchers perspectives. This will be a challenge but the field efforts need to speak to the centralized people group list and not the other way around. Sometimes major research effort pick and choose which peoples it allows into the their list. This needs to change. We personally have made this error undermining the field research effort and thus loosing their participation.
I will use another phrase here; “field driven research“. We need the research to be “field driven” and not “major research effort” driven. This field driven research concept has not been accomplished because we have not provided a community where it can happen until now. It will get messy, but secular projects have shown us that large scale community collaborations eventually draw in the experts and the mess gets cleaned up. The days of “major research effort” driven research are nearing an end. We can move toward collaboration independently or in community, the choice is ours.
Of course I personally believe in Etnopedia. Not in the name, but in the potential it has to encourage a community to participate. Many people don’t see this potential part of Etnopedia because of its simplicity. But the limitation of its simplicity is minimal compared to the potential to truly collaborate, which is what we are longing for. We all want to finish Christ’s Commission and the Fathers Plan!