Sanford Starts Joint Venture with Indian Institute of Management

A new program brings together Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy and the Indian Institute of Management in Udaipur, India (IIMU), in a collaborative research and educational effort that aims to help transform the lives of some of the poorest people in the world.

The project will match faculty researchers from both institutions with Indian nonprofit organizations that not only can provide valuable logistical support for faculty research projects in India, but also can act on the findings.

“There are many academic and activists who are eager to collaborate, and our world-class researchers can provide established organizations in Udaipur with the knowledge base to make their efforts more effective,” said Anirudh Krishna, a Sanford professor of public policy. Krishna co-leads the initiative with Professor Janat Shah, director of IIMU.

Krishna, a former official of the Indian Administrative Service in the state of Rajasthan, has made alleviating poverty and enhancing human development the focus of his scholarly work. Shah is an expert in green supply chains, and will be involved with research projects in the fields of energy and climate change.

The countryside around Udaipur is home to some of the neediest people in India. Udaipur is a center for both governmental and nongovernmental organizations serving this population who can assemble field research teams and offer the infrastructure needed to put research-based improvements in place, Krishna said.

The three-year start-up program has received $500,000 in pilot funding from a variety of sources, including Duke’s Office of the Provost, the Sanford School and IIMU. Some of the funding has been applied to five Duke-led pilot research projects, which will identify faculty collaborators at IIMU, Krishna said. Each will receive $25,000 over three years, as well as matching funds from IIMU:

  • Linda Burton and Saunjuhi Verma (Sociology): Evaluation of a national ID card as a device to help low-income Indians to transition from the informal to the formal economy.
  • Erika Weinthal and Krithi Karanth (Nicholas School of the Environment): Survey of human-wildlife conflicts around protected areas to create risk maps.
  • Sandy Darity (Sanford): Indian social policies to reduce poverty and social exclusion especially among scheduled castes (former untouchables) and indigenous people. 
  • Subhrendu Pattanayak and Marc Jeuland (Sanford and Global Health Institute): Contextual factors that influence adoption of improved cookstoves, improving health outcomes among low-income households.
  • Erik Wibbels (Political Science): Clientelism, public services and elections in urban slums.

Graduate and PhD students at both institutions will benefit from the partnership, as well, either by working alongside faculty on research projects or interning with (NGO) partners. Among the partner NGOs are Action Research and Training for Health (ARTH), Aajeevika-National Rural Livelihoods Mission, People’s Education and Development Organization, Foundation for Ecological Security and Seva Mandir, a development organization serving the rural and tribal population of Rajasthan for more than 40 years.

Another component of the program is a 12-week summer school for 30 to 35 development professionals. The summer school, slated to begin in 2014, will form teams of three students – one from Duke, one from an Indian university and one NGO staff member. Each team will be tasked with producing for its host NGO a detailed project proposal, including a budget and cost-benefit analysis, which the NGO can present to a potential funder.

The summer school will combine coursework, field research based on assignments given in class, and a concluding feedback and discussion module. At least six of the 12 weeks will be spent living in villages or urban slums related to the host NGO’s operations, where the student team will be required to identify gaps in existing responses to community needs and develop plans for responding to them. The intensive, results-oriented program is designed to build upon the complementary strengths and weakness that the three groups of students will bring.

“Building upon these initial initiatives, other programs will be developed in the future,” Krishna said. “Udaipur and the countryside around it should serve well as a productive hub for wide-ranging research on rural problems in the developing world.”