Core Values


Ethical research is research that considers and mitigates potential harms to participants and researchers, and ensures that the benefits outweigh the risks. 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. The Tea Leaf Center promotes ethical research by conducting context-specific ethics trainings to visiting and local researchers, including modified, context-specific ethical review processes in all its projects, working with communities to develop ethical engagement guidelines for outside researchers, and creating accessible materials about ethics and participants’ rights for vulnerable communities.

a) Host discussion events with local researchers and organizations on research ethics to facilitate discussion among local organizations about their ethics concerns and processes.

b) Engage with visiting student researchers on context-specific ethics. These include individual researchers in the region, study abroad programs, or university lead research projects.

c) Conducting a Tea Leaf Center led research project to promote ethical research.


Connected research is research that informs and is informed by other research, perspectives and people. This means researchers in the region – whether local civil society, visiting academics or something in-between – are connected to each other, share their research findings and experience, 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 the Affiliate Researchers network. The Tea Leaf Center will also engage with visiting researchers to hold events where those researchers can share skills, draft findings, or other skills and knowledge with interested civil society and local researchers; and will hold research-sharing activities between diverse researchers working on similar topics.

Support local researchers' participation in regional conferences: The Tea Leaf Center will select local researchers and support them to develop conference presentations based on their research and other conference support/preparation needs and fund the researcher’s participation in a regional conference. Researchers/organizations will be selected for one regional conference and TLC partner(s) will assist the participants to prepare for and participate in the conference. Organizations who have conducted relevant research but who have not participated, or who have infrequently participated, in international conferences will be selected based in a basic application process.


Accessible research is research that produces outputs that participants, their communities and others can easily find, read and understand. This means user-friendly presentations of key findings or results in multimedia form, infographics, events or other formats where relevant information is shared with participants and others in a way that they can understand and use. The Tea Leaf Center supports accessible research by incorporating accessible outputs in all of its research, encouraging and supporting Research Affiliates to create more accessible outputs, and working with researchers to develop activities and strategies to present their findings back to the participants and communities that informed the research.

Holding guest speaker events with visiting academic researchers to share findings of relevant research or other information/skills with relevant civil society organizations and students. Topics will be discussed with researchers and based on the interests and needs of local organizations.


Empowered research means local organizations are able to conduct their own research to a high standard of quality, reducing reliance on external consultants and improving the credibility and reliability of their research. The Tea Leaf Center aims to support this value through mentoring local organizations through every step of the research process. Our mentorship program, which can be done for the same or lower cost as hiring an outside consultant, works with local organizations and their staff to train and guide them through the research process. The resulting research better reflects their priorities and understanding of the local context, and they are able to lead their own projects in the future. We will also offer advanced skills trainings for organizations seeking to add new research methodologies to their toolbox – from surveys and quantitative analysis to participatory research methods and more. We also plan to hold ‘research design labs,’ where a small group of organizations will go from an idea to a completed research design and funding proposal through an intensive, interactive few days.

a) Research Design Support: We provide research design support to organizations to develop their research ideas so that organizations have a fully conceptualized research project designed by them while also having learned to do this process on their own. The Tea Leaf Center also gives assistance in proposal writing where organizations have identified funding opportunities. This helps local organizations better compete for donor funds, and helps donors better understand and evaluate the proposed project.

b) Research Mentoring: The Tea Leaf Center mentors organizations who have received or will receive funding for a research project, but need support in order to improve the quality of the research. Stages of the mentoring process are developed in consultation with the organization, but often include:

1) research design workshop;

2) fieldworker training and research tools piloting;

3) data review and analysis workshop; and

4) validation, analysis and follow-up planning workshop.