Influencing curriculum and pedagogy in order to reflect rural and agrarian issues has been a core mission of the NRAS. To promote research on the emerging themes of the workshop, the NRAS organized the first Mentoring Initiative on November 1, 2014, in association with the third workshop held at the Indian Institute of Forest Management, Bhopal. This was an opportunity for students and teachers in rural and peri-urban colleges, universities and local practitioners to discuss their research ideas and get feedback on their written work from senior and junior scholars associated with the NRAS.

Prospective participants were asked to submit a written paper or research proposal of 1500-2000 words, on the basis of which they would be selected. Out of all the written submissions received by the programme committee, ten participants were selected and paired with senior and junior scholars associated with the NRAS based on their research themes (see below). All the mentees were expected to attend the two-day NRAS workshop on “Studying the Rural” on October 30-31, 2014.

Based on their research proposals, participants were then divided into round tables so that at least two mentees and two mentors were on each table. The topics addressed by participants included education, forests and tribal issues, information technology, migration, agrarian change, reproductive rights, and rural collective institutions. Each mentee was given a chance to explain their research project and the specific challenges they faced in research, after which all participants on the table gave feedback to them and discussed how to help them overcome these challenges.

The discussion ranged from formulating a research question, choosing research methods, doing a comprehensive literature review, research ethics, obtaining funding, purpose of research, how to narrow down the scope of one’s topic, how to navigate the field, how to approach publishers, how to re-write a draft for publication and many other issues related to research and publication.

The NRAS received overwhelmingly positive feedback from mentees after the Initiative was over. Participants said that the discussion on the tables was tailored to their specific needs and requirements, taking into account what stage of research they were at. They felt that the format of one-on-one feedback helped them get substantive insights on how to proceed with their research.

Since all mentees had attended the main workshop on the previous two days, they were able to use this opportunity to ask questions about the workshop discussions and how it was linked to their own work. They found the main workshop to be very useful in framing their research questions and especially in understanding the state of research in important topics.

The mentors also expressed deep satisfaction with the format and outcome of the initiative and many of them offered to continue to mentor the participants through email and other means of communication. Given this positive encouragement from all participants, the NRAS plans to conduct more such initiatives in the future.

Mentors

  1. Dr. Asmita Kabra, Ambedkar University Delhi
  2. Dr. Sripad Motiram, IGIDR Mumbai
  3. Dr. Balmurli Natrajan, Azim Premji University, Bangalore
  4. Prof. A.R. Vasavi, Independent Scholar, Bangalore
  5. Shri P.S. Vijay Shankar, Samaj Pragati Sahyog, Dewas, MP
  6. Dr. Srijit Mishra, IGIDR Mumbai
  7. Dr. Satendra Kumar, GB Pant Institute of Social Sciences, Allahabad
  8. Dr. Richa Kumar, IIT Delhi
  9. Shri. K.J. Joy, SOPPECOM Pune
  10. Dr. Sunny Jose, TISS, Hyderabad