Dr Rajesh Tandon, Co-Chair, UNESCO Chair in Community Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education & President, Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) delivered a lecture on the implications of participatory research in academic institutions, at the Department of Sociology, Barkatullah University, Bhopal on August 28, 2015. Professor S K Chaudhary, Director, IGRMS, Bhopal, graced the event as a chief guest. Among other eminent dignitaries present were Professor Udai Jain, Ex-Vice-Chancellor, APS University, Rewa who was the guest of honour and Dr Yogesh Kumar, Executive Director, Samarthan (a Bhopal based civil society organization). The event was hosted by Professor S N Chaudhary from the Rajiv Gandhi Chair in Contemporary Studies, Barkatullah University.
Addressing the dignitaries, and eminent academics, Dr Tandon began the lecture by outlining the context amidst which participatory research in social sciences acquired importance and relevance. He said that ‘despite enormous complexity of social realities in the country, social science research has become largely irrelevant today, as students undertaking masters and doctoral level research confine themselves to libraries; or their topics are essentially ‘rehash’ already known themes and topics’.
Pic 1: Dr Rajesh Tandon, delivering the lecture in Barkatullah University, Bhopal.
Referring to the historical context, Dr Tandon shared that, ‘While participatory research (PR) methodologies did get acceptance in academia in early 1990s, they have not been adequately utilised by students and researchers.’ Further, he stated that, ‘the key constraint for this seems to be the absence of long-term trusting relationships with communities. As a result, Higher education institutions (HEIs) continue to be seen as distant and alien by local communities and civil society actors’.
In view of this, Dr Tandon re-iterated that ‘concerted efforts need to be made to promote learning and practice of PR in social sciences’. On how to go about such efforts, he shared that ‘certain intermediary civil society organisations can act as a bridge between universities and communities’. In view of this, he called on Bartkatullah University and Samarthan to take a lead in re-energizing efforts on this front, while hoping that the University institutionalizes this cooperation ‘to make the practice of PR more central to various social science faculties."
This was then followed by a round of general discussions on the topic, wherein the participants shared their views, and explored opportunities to expand this area of work in the future. In the end, a vote of thanks was given by Dr Yogesh Kumar from Samarthan, and Dr Tandon was felicitated with a token of appreciation.