Students conduct real-world research in India
A group of Social and Political Sciences students recently returned from an internship in India, where they conducted research in local communities.
The internship program was hosted by Pollinate Energy, a social enterprise selling solar lights, water filters and other life-changing products to people living in informal communities without electricity supply. The twelve students worked on two research projects aimed at assisting Pollinate in its work.
One group worked on a ‘Migration Motivation Study’, examining the reasons that people moved to Bangalore from their home villages and, how often and for what reasons they return home. The students discovered a mixture of ‘push factors’ (such as long-term drought in their home villages meaning that the land could no longer sustain them) and ‘pull factors’ (the desire to earn cash income to afford a range of desired goods and services such as building a house, buying land and educating children). The students then used this information to design a survey that would enable a larger and more reliable sample size and, to identify individuals who would be interested in taking Pollinate’s products, such as solar lights or cooking stoves, to their villages upon return.
The biggest community in Bangalore, India that I conducted research in had 700 tents, inhabiting 5,000 people all without electricity or running water. As I walked through the community at night, I saw an esplanade being set up with tables and thoroughfares crowded with people laughing and playing board games. Pollinate Energy's solar lights provided light and music to facilitate these nighttime events. When we walked through the depths of the community I saw children studying or reading with the lights as well as the women being able to cook safely - some had music playing with women singing along.
Despite the hardship of the program and the challenges it presents to your identity, Pollinate Energy proves to be a life-changing company. The most important experience I took away from this program is that the level of poverty we were immersed in didn't take away from these people's pride or happiness. I left Pollinate Energy with an unwavering respect for the communities, as the people I encountered have an otherworldly determination to thrive.
Intern, Social and Political Sciences student
The second group worked on a review of a program within Pollinate called the ‘Suryamukhi Project’. The program aims to sell low-cost items to women, such as biodegradable sanitary pads, mosquito nets and insect repellent. This group picked up on an already underway research project that examines the impact of these products on the lives of women. The students discovered the pre-existing surveys were inadequate for a range of reasons, including leading or repeated questions and no way to collate data. They redesigned and tested new surveys and also wrote a ‘Best practice guide for surveying’ and a ‘Guide to working with interpreters’ for the organisation and the next group of students to pick up (likely engineering or business students with minimal research experience).
The students drew on most of the research methodologies that they have learned throughout the Social and Political Sciences degree and were able to apply these in a ‘real-world’ situation. Pollinate regularly has student interns, but this was the organisation’s first cohort of Social and Political Sciences students, as previous groups have come from business or engineering backgrounds. Pollinate was impressed by the quality of research work done by the students, including their clear mapping out of how the research should be developed by the next group to come through.
As staff, Devleena and I saw the students learn, grow and operate effectively and professionally in a challenging environment (seeing serious poverty first hand) and deliver high quality research outputs at the end of just two weeks in the field. They demonstrated excellent analytical, practical and research skills.
Dr Lucy Fiske
Senior Lecturer, Social and Political Sciences program
The program was delivered with New Colombo Plan funding, an initiative of the Australian Government that aims to lift knowledge of the Indo Pacific in Australia by supporting Australian undergraduates to study and undertake internships in the region.
Find out more about the Bachelor of Communication (Social and Political Sciences).