In the heat, monsoon, and busy traffic, it’s hard to believe that it has already been one month since I began my summer in New Delhi. My first week here was a chaotic mix of overstimulation – the heat, the crowd, the constant honking everywhere, the foreign language, etc. But over the last few weeks I have adjusted well and made several personal accomplishments: managing my daily auto-rickshaw commute to and from work, picking up the sideways nod, and taking a trip to see the Taj Mahal.
The biggest contributor to my relatively quick and easy adjustment was the family-like environment at the Indian Institute of Dalit Studies (IIDS), where I am working as a policy and research intern this summer. Since the founding of the Institute 10 years ago, it has quickly solidified its position as one of the first organizations in India researching social exclusion and discrimination of marginalized groups, such as Dalits (more commonly known as untouchables), Tribal communities, and religious minorities. My worries of being the only intern and the only foreigner in the office quickly disappeared when the director and staff threw me a small, impromptu birthday party, even though it was only my third day in the office.
My main project at IIDS has been to produce a series of policy briefs for 10 studies the Institute has completed over the years on social exclusion and discrimination in food security, health services, education, employment, and rural/urban land markets. Since the organization primarily consists of academic researchers, the director wanted short and simple policy briefs highlighting the key findings and policy recommendations that will be effective in her meetings with various ministry officials. On the side I am helping a team of researchers prepare for a second field visit to study a government-sponsored nutrition program for adolescent girls.
So, on any given day I am: reading a study report and its data, condensing it into 3-4 pages, or designing and putting together the final version of the policy brief. It’s been exciting to work on the briefs from the very start to finish, especially knowing that it will help the research make an impact on policy. Just yesterday the director collected my first 3 policy briefs to take to a meeting!
As a bonus, last week I had the unique opportunity to be a part of the three-day Research Methodology workshop IIDS hosts annually. IIDS invited researchers from all over India, Canada, and the US, including Professor Samuel Myers from the University of Minnesota whom I worked closely with throughout the workshop. It was great to learn of the diverse research conducted on exclusion and discrimination, and the commitment everyone had to inclusive development of India was inspiring. I also found that researchers often speak the same language as Sanford MPPs: heterogeneity, selection bias, causation versus correlation, regressions, etc 🙂
Every day has been an eye-opening experience, and I am excited for what lies ahead in my next 5 weeks in New Delhi!