The Tea Leaf Center was founded on four guiding principles. We believe research should be ethical, connected, accessible, and empowered.


Ethical research considers and mitigates potential harms to participants and researchers, ensures that the benefits outweigh the risks, and is designed to be context-specific. Holistic ethics covers not only issues of consent and confidentiality, but context-specific security of participants and researchers, preserving participants’ dignity, and the resilience of researchers through self-care and mutual support to deal with trauma and burnout experienced when researching difficult subjects.


Connected research informs and is informed by other research, perspectives, and people. We help to ensure local civil society, academics, and independent researchers are connected, share their work, and support each other. The Tea Leaf Center aims to support this value by providing a platform for researchers to connect, identify potential collaborations, and share knowledge through our network. We also engage with visiting researchers and hold events to share ideas and build collaborative partnerships.


Accessible research produces outputs that participants, their communities and others can easily find, read and understand. This means user-friendly presentations of key findings in formats that can be easily understand and used. We value accessible outputs by encouraging and supporting our network to create more user-friendly outputs, and working with researchers to develop activities and strategies to return their findings to participants and communities that informed the work.


Empowered research means local organizations are able to conduct their own research to a high standard, reduce reliance on external consultants, and improve the credibility and reliability of their research. We support this through mentoring local organizations. Our mentorship program can be done at the same or at a lower cost than hiring a consultant. We work with local staff to train and guide them through the research process. This better reflects their priorities and understanding of the local context to be able to lead their own projects in the future.