Report on a workshop offered by the Tata-Dhan Academy, Madurai


Post-independence India has witnessed an immense struggle against poverty. A variety of stakeholders have resorted to innovative and diverse models to face the challenges ahead. NGOs have played key roles in furthering the efforts made by these stakeholders to reduce poverty. In this process, development practitioners have amassed a wealth of experience and learning, especially at the grassroots level.

This treasure chest of learning is there for the asking; unfortunately, knowledge sharing in the development sector is severely under utilized and much of the valuable grassroots learning experiences remain obscure and localized. Precious time, human resources, and other resources can be put to optimal use if these learnings are made widely and freely available.

Individual reflections and group discussions on this disparity indicated that a forum was necessary to make these learnings easily accessible to people; such a forum would help develop contemporary development theories and concepts. The Transferring Grassroots Experiences into New Development Theories and Concepts knowledge-building workshop is one such forum, and it was designed to facilitate sharing and learning and to enable practitioners to theorize and conceptualize based on their experiences. By creating this platform and enabling development practitioners themselves to present their theories, DHAN Foundation and the Tata-Dhan Academy hope to set in motion a very powerful process whereby the gaps between theories, grassroots level practitioners, and the community can be narrowed.
Continue reading ‘Transferring Grassroots Experiences into New Development Theories and Concepts’


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Goodbye “Dear Diary” and hello “Development Diary”

Many people can be a bit intimidated by the thought of diary writing. A large part of this is the recollection of childhood diary writing experiences filled with mundane details which look something like:

Dear Diary,
Today I got up at 6:30 and had five idli for breakfast. Then I went to the tea shop and had two cups of tea and …

You get the point. No one—not even you—is likely to want to read or re-read those words a month later.

So, why are we asking you to keep a “Development Diary” thenThis document was prepared for Tata-Dhan Academy students who are completing the fieldwork or development practice segments of their curriculum. As such, some of the content specifically highlights the types of topics they would be recording about their experiences.?
Continue reading ‘Fieldwork Diary Writing: A “Development Diary” for Self-Reflection’

India is often heralded both as the land of diversity and as the land of unity. This is a claim reinforced by the wealth of religious, cultural, and linguistic diversity coexisting with many things uniquely “Indian” within the country’s boundaries. Now, with India’s impressive growth, “income” can be added as an element of “diversity”; can the same be said for improving its status as a land of unity? “India: How’s it Growing?” published in Developments magazine asks the question “How many Indias are there?” and tries to evaluate the inclusiveness of India’s economic growth.
Continue reading ‘Is India’s New Growth Reaching the Poor?’

I couldn’t help it. I had to start writing my own writing guide based on a few of the things that really irritate me when I’m editing or correcting something for someone else. It’s a work in progress and it’s being done somewhat haphazardly (which probably means that I’m eventually going to get lazy about it after a while and not add new tips). But I’m having fun doing it—it helps relieve some of the frustration I sometimes feel when editing….

Snippy Writing Tips

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Process documentation and journal writing should become a natural extension of the work that you do while you are in the field. Both of these types of writing are meant to describe what happened in the field, and both of them will include different kinds of information to help you later on when writing your reports. But while these writing tasks are related, they are different in their purposes. Broadly speaking, process documentation is purely objective, while journal writing is more flexible and allows for more subjective commentary. The following document was written to help you get started with process documentation and journal writingThis document was prepared for Tata-Dhan Academy students who are completing the fieldwork or development practice segments of their curriculum. As such, some of the content specifically highlights the types of topics they would be recording about their experiences. Nevertheless, whatever your course of study—or indeed even if you are writing for pleasure!—many of the concepts here should still be easily applicable.. I urge you to take the included information as “guidelines” and not as a prescriptive set of rules or requirements.
Continue reading ‘Process Documentation and Journal Writing: Guidelines for Making the Most out of Your Field Experiences’

Last summer, the Centre for Micro Finance took on a group of interns to help with several of their projects. Two of the interns, Rachel Bergenfield and Neera Jain—by the way, the most awesome interns ever!—agreed to undertake the huge project of filming a documentary in a few short weeks, and here is the result of their efforts!

Continue reading ‘Video: Asking the Right Questions: An Introduction to the Centre for Micro Finance’

Evaluation and Assessment of Curriculum

This week, as I write this, I am also in the midst of finding a new job. My past few days have been filled with composing cover letters, browsing online job sites, sending emails out to my network of colleagues, and refining my CV—my curriculum vitae. “The course of life.” When looked at from that perspective, the term curriculum is certainly a weighty one; however, despite the import of the term, clarity about what constitutes a curriculum is still unclear for many people. Definitions become even hazier when restricted to academics and used alongside terms like instruction. The education field, like any other, has its share of jargon; curriculum and instruction are two of these. These two related terms are essential to the education field and deserve to be considered more closely.

Continue reading ‘Instructing the Curriculum? Or a Curriculum for Better Instruction?’