Workshop Recap from Cheryl Martin, GVI Regional Director

by Cheryl Martin, GVI Regional Director and Fellowship Team Member

It has been a pleasure to host Dr Bryan McAlister-Grande for the past week here in Nepal.  Bryan joined us as  GVI Sustainable Development Fellow (2019-20).  He received his Master of Education and Doctor of Education degrees from the Harvard Graduate School of Education (Cambridge, MA USA) and is the Curriculum Integration Manager at Northeastern University (Boston, MA USA).

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It has equally been a pleasure to host 18 workshop participants from Pokhara and Kathmandu to attend the series of workshops run by Dr Bryan.  The workshop focus was “Becoming a Researcher: Empirical Research Design and Programme Evaluation.” The focus of research was decided following consultation with local organisations, particularly SASANE. It was a series of workshops across 6 mornings.

Participants represented several organisations:

·         SASANE an anti-trafficking organization that takes a multifaceted approach to empowering women including  training them as paralegals.

·         Skylark Himalayan Tours and Travels our dependable partners who support us with all tours and trekking and have a strong interest in supporting the community

·         Star Children’s who are outreach programme to support families of children affected by HIV

·         HART the Himalayan Animal Rescue Trust who particularly focus on improving the lives of animals in Nepal with neutering and vaccination being a key focus

·         Welcome to My Yard who strive to enable positive futures for street based children, young people and families at risk in the Kathmandu region.

It was a fantastic range of people across a range of organisations, all eager to learn.

Bryan started and ended the week with a key idea that research is a human right and made a strong acknowledgement of Participatory Action Research (PAR).  Knowledge and understanding of Research is beneficial in both personal and working life and in fact, would stand very appropriately as a subject area in a regular school curriculum.

Across the week we focused on

·         Asking a Question

·         Gathering Data: Qualitative Methods

·         Gathering Data: Quantitative Methods

·         Experimental Research Design

·         Analyzing Your Data

·         Communicating Your Findings

For me, I particularly enjoyed revisiting the Logic Model and Theory of Change. It was also really interesting to practice coding which could be a useful approach when working in Community Development.  Others in the group resonated more of the quantitative and  numerical data or aspects that were particularly relevant to their work.  The SASANE team,  who are trained paralegals, all showed their skills and knowledge in the interviewing sections of the course as did the participants from the other organisations.

One of the great things about workshops , especially when held over several days, is the networking that happens between organisations. We certainly finished the week with new connections and support networks, making it far more than simply running the six workshops. We look forward to GVI Nepal being part of this network. As one participant mentioned,  

"It not only provided us with the knowledge and process of research, it was also based on including various groups of people who we can share the culture, knowledge and work among each other."

A Human Empowerment model is a strong ethos in GVI.  One aspect of Human Empowerment is Horizontal Relationships this relates to us all being the learner and the teacher.  The networking I have mentioned fits into this and although Bryan led the main workshops and came with a wealth of knowledge and experiences,  he also had some significant learning experiences from the group members. He

·         attended the Sisterhood of Survivors programme run by participants from SASANE where he learnt about Human Trafficking as well as making traditional momos.  His participation also helps fund another paralegal to be trained.  

·         participated in a trek and local tour where our Skylark guides could show their skills in leading, teach about the local area and explain some of the achievements and challenges in their roles. 

·         met with two of the vets from HART for two  evening sessions to discuss research in relation to their field of work with both humans and animals

·          attended our GVI Welcome activities which include an introduction to Nepali culture and GVI’s sustainable development programmes

·         learnt about the Nepali systems and processes for reporting through the workshop discussions.

There was time to share information with the various participants throughout the week and there is no doubt Bryan has a greater understanding of Nepali culture as well as the social enterprise organisations in Nepal, their strengths and challenges.

Our workshops culminated on Friday with a presentation ceremony where traditional Khata scarves and tikka as well as a certificate of completion were presented. We’ve sent Bryan home with Bhag Chal (Goats and tigers), a traditional Nepali game.

It’s now time to all reflect and consider how we can look further into the area of research and how each of us can utilize our new knowledge and understandings. We are also keen to build resources and connections that will support  us all in the future. This week is just the beginning and if each participant can take at least one thing and apply it in their personal or professional life it would be worthwhile.

A final big thank you to all of the participants and their organisations, the Third Pole team for hosting us and to Dr Bryan McAllister-Grande for sharing his time and expertise.

Our journey has just begun, Please follow this fellowship programme  https://www.journeytonepal.net

Qualitative and Quantitative Research

Day 4 of the workshop is now underway! The last two days were rich with good ideas. On Monday, we explored qualitative research. We covered the basics of qualitative research design, interviewing, and naturalistic observation. The 18 participants created interview protocols with the help of some templates provided by my colleague, Amy Cheung.

The participants are forming their research projects — creating research questions, thinking about sampling strategies, and exploring difficult concepts of triangulation, validity, and legitimacy in the context of different research traditions. There are some fabulous NGOs in the room, including:

  • SASANE - SASANE is a survivor-led organization, established in 2008, that means “Let’s protect ourselves”. It is under the founding principle that women survivors of human trafficking have immense potential to combat the exploitation of Nepalese women and girls and to create social change. SASANE’s mission is to end the physical and sexual exploitation of young girls in Nepal. 

  • Star Children - SC’ is a non-profit, non-governmental organization providing services with an alternative care approach for HIV/AIDS infected and affected children in Nepal. They provide  home, education, healthcare and individual care/ counseling & motivation for needy children

  • HART (Himalayan Animal Rescue Trust) - HART exists to try to redress some of the suffering endured by animals that are without power to control their lives. Neglect, cruelty and ignorance combine to make the world a hostile place for many creatures. HART rescues and treats street animals and animals around Nepal.

  • Welcome to My Yard - Welcome To My Yard is an innovative social enterprise partnering with street based Nepali children, young people and families and those at risk to provide holistic community based support, practical education, training and savings schemes. Through our creative approaches to ‘involve’, ‘inspire’ and ‘enable,’ they are creating brighter futures for those we assist and not for profit projects with a social conscience.

Each participant is either representing their organization or learning research methods concepts for their own learning and skill development. We have also talked about ways to collaborate and share data across NGOs and agencies working in Nepal.

On Monday afternoon, I joined other GVI Volunteers in visiting the SASANE safe house in Pokhara. There, the members of the Sisterhood of Survivors (SOS) Program, one of SASANE’s four programs, gave a wonderful demonstration on Nepali cooking (we made mo:mos) and hospitality. They also gave a presentation on SASANE and on the spreading problem of human trafficking.

SASANE is such an inspiring program and the SOS women did an amazing job of hosting us and teaching us how to make mo:mos. (Although my skills need some work).

On Tuesday, we left qualitative research for the world of quantitative research. We discussed correlation, causation, variables (independent and dependent), survey design, and program evaluation. Many of the participants seem most interested in quantitative research, but we’re also trying to take a mixed methods approach.

Each session has been followed by a lunch; there have also been chances to meet and talk with Nepalis in the afternoon and evening times.

Teaching for four hours has been a lot of fun, surprisingly! I find that I get into a rhythm, and there is a nice mix of workshop activities and lectures.

More soon.

Research Design and the New Research

Day 1 of the Workshop was a thrilling experience. First, I am recognizing that teaching research methods across disciplines is a very hard (but worthy!) task. There are so many different traditions and paradigms, and I am trying to avoid a lot of theoretical discussion of paradigm wars and the like. But it is easy (even for the teacher) to get jumbled by all the different research approaches and traditions.

Still, I came away from the first day convinced that research methods are converging , and that we are approaching an era when qualitative and quantitative strategies can and probably should work in concert.

The participants — from organizations including SASANE, HART, Welcome to My Yard, Skylark Trekking, and Star Children — were amazing with their attentiveness and insights. Many of the participants have a background in research or data collection; some are totally new to the subject or just learning. One thing that should have been obvious to me earlier is that the contexts for research activity and design in Nepal are so different. As one of the world's poorest countries, Nepal suffers from major infrastructure challenges, political instability, and corruption. Workshop participants pointed out that achieving any level of objectivity in Nepal is difficult, given the on the ground conditions. More on this later.

Today, we covered the scientific method and how that method unites many research traditions. We discussed what makes a good research question. The students then formulated their own research questions. We also talked about common research terms, such as validity and sampling.

Tomorrow, we journey through qualitative research!

Settling in & Nepali hospitality

Nepalis are among the friendliest people I’ve ever met. And, everyone at GVI — and their many connections and friends in the area — have made me feel very welcome so far. It was a long journey to get here — 3 flights! — but I am settling in to Pokhara.

After a first-day dinner with some of the GVI volunteers, I spent Saturday getting to know Pokhara. Bhanu, a tour guide who runs Skylark Trekking with his brother Tara Gautam, graciously showed me around Pokhara for the day. We visited the breathtaking Peace Pagoda, Devi’s Falls, the International Mountain Museum, the Bindyabasini Hindu Temple, the Tibetan Refugee settlement of Tashi Palkhel (we arrived just in time to see the monks chanting in the glorious Jangchub Choeling Gompa), and Pokhara’s suspension bridge. I can’t thank Bhanu enough for an amazing tour; he is so knowledgeable about the area. If you are ever in Nepal, look Skylark up!

Pokhara is a much larger city than I had first thought. Bhanu explained that its metropolitan area actually exceeds the capital, Kathmandu, and Pokhara is clearly growing. With help from the Chinese government, Nepalis are building an international airport. Yet, the city is also bursting at the seams, with most of the activity centered on the lakeside commercial district — which is teeming with motorbikes.

Tomorrow, the workshop begins! We tested out the equipment and made some final arrangements. 18 participants will join us in the morning for the first session. I’m excited to begin teaching.

Becoming a Researcher: Empirical Research Design and Program Evaluation

On Wednesday, I leave for Nepal, and on Sunday, May 5, I begin teaching a six-day workshop on research methods and program evaluation. I’m excited to begin this journey, which has been in the works for over a year. My thanks again to Cheryl Martin, GVI’s Regional Director for Nepal and India, for her stellar work in helping to organize and plan this workshop. The participant list is hovering around 10 or 15. I’ll be teaching to a variety of organizations in Nepal including Welcome to My Yard, SASANE, and HART.

There are several challenges of designing a research and evaluation workshop for a six-day period. In this program, we’ll exploring both qualitative and qualitative research, as well as research and program evaluation. Typically, these areas are treated separately - each with their own paradigms, traditions, and approaches.

Increasingly, however, researchers across disciplines and applied fields are mixing methods, and the lines between basic and applied research are fading somewhat. I am trying to draw these traditions back together by emphasizing the common stages of research design and the importance of asking good questions. The syllabus includes sessions on:

  • Fundamentals of Research Design

    • Empirical or Scientific Methods

    • Posing Research Questions/Hypotheses

    • Research terminology: Population, Sampling, Selection Bias, Validity

  • Qualitative Methods and Research Design

    • Interviewing

    • Naturalistic Observation

  • Quantitative Methods and Research Design

    • Descriptive vs. Experimental Studies

    • Survey Design

    • Triangulation

    • Internal vs. External Validity

  • Mixed Methods and Experimental Studies

  • Analyzing Your Data

    • Univariate Analysis

    • Bivariate Analysis

    • Inferential Statistics

    • Qualitative Coding

    • Grounded Theory

  • Communicating Your Findings

    • Program Evaluation Reports

    • Research studies

    • Research ethics

This is a participatory workshop, so we will be following the stages of research design; participants will be applying these topics to their own organizations and work.

Stay tuned!

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My Reading List

Former presidents Obama and Clinton regularly publish their reading lists for all to consume. Because I'm clearly in the same company as them, I'll highlight some books on my reading shelf for the trip to Nepal.  I've only read two of these so far, so my "notes" are currently a bit sparse.

Mark Liechty, Out Here in Kathmandu: Modernity on the Global Periphery (2011)
Framed as a series of essays (most of them previously published), Liechty's book explores how globalization is affecting Nepali life and culture -- not through some monolithic force, but through a complex negotiation between traditional and "outsourced" culture. The book is rich with empirical and theoretical information, as well as grounded narratives of modern life in Kathmandu.

Jennifer Rothchild, Gender Trouble Makers: Education and Empowerment in Nepal (2006)
An excellent ethnographic analysis of changing gender norms in Juri Village, a rural village in eastern Nepal. Rothchild found that while many gender norms remained powerfully intact, gender "trouble makers" successfully "challenged gender processes," which "illustrated individuals' capacity to negotiate the social construction and maintenance of gender."

Next books/reports up include:

Acharya, Sushan, A comprehensive review of the practices of literacy and nonformal education in Nepal 

Khaniya, Tirth Raj, New horizons in education in Nepal

Pramod Bhatta, Education in Nepal : problems, reforms, and social change

Prashant Jha, Battles of the new republic : a contemporary history of Nepal

Malcolm Langford, University of Oslo, Andy Sumner, King's College London, Alicia Ely Yamin, Harvard University, The millennium development goals and human rights : past, present and future

McCormick, Patricia, Sold (2006)

David Seddon, Nepal : maintaining secularism - an up-hill struggle

If anyone has further suggestions, please let me know! 

Bryan

Welcome!

Welcome to colleagues, friends, and followers. This blog serves two purposes. First, it tracks the development of the research collective. Since participatory research is meant to be collaborative and open-ended, it aims to open up the development of the project to online participation. Followers can see how the project develops, offer input and criticism, and perhaps even participate!  As a research collective, we aim to have many people involved.

Second, this blog tracks my own journey. Early on in my career, I traveled frequently as part of my job, for fun, and on volunteer experiences. Since having three kids and entering a doctoral program, however, my travel has been less frequent. Moreover, I've never been to Nepal. This blog traces my own experiences, pictures, and moments as I prepare for my first Fellowship trip in Spring 2019.

With those two purposes in mind, I want to begin by thanking the great team at GVI for their collaborative spirit in designing this Fellowship. Our early conversations so far have got this project off to a great start. Thanks, specifically, to Shayle Havemann, Melissa Torres,  Cheryl Martin, Kim Coetzee, Garret Brent and Kate-Lyn Moore for giving me this great opportunity and being part of the project.

I'll be trying to update this blog as frequently as I can!