Case study

'Action research' in Peru's wood and furniture sector

Carving out a new approach for better jobs

Callie Ham
Published by
The Lab, ILO

A snapshot of the Lab's adaptive management approach through 'action research' initiatives in Peru's wood and furniture sector.

Development projects can be very bound by project documents detailing the activities necessary for achieving objectives. It can make it nearly impossible to correct them when new information indicates they are wrong. 

And programmes often do not collect data that indicates if interventions are veering off course during implementation. Results are collected and evaluated only after the project finishes. 

The Lab tried something different. They were searching for the best means of improving working conditions in Peru’s wood and furniture sector. This sector is wrought with safety hazards, insufficient health coverage and high labour turnover. The Lab explored the idea of ‘action research’ but with the soul of a market systems approach.

After one year of using this action research approach, the Lab managed to work with public and private agencies to:

  • Jump-start a programme to validate the skillsets of workers without formal education to assist them in finding more secure and better paid employment
  • start the legislative process for providing coverage to workers insufficiently protected by health insurance
  • provide employers a financial incentive for improving working conditions on forestry plantations
  • expose the unlocked potential of the export market and its direct effects on job quality