Upcoming course: Practical field research skills course - development challenges in rural India

Upcoming course: Practical field research skills course - development challenges in rural India

SDG india

One of the major objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is to address the significant societal gaps within and between nations. Many development programs are designed explicitly to reduce such gaps. How can we evaluate the extent to which this objective is met? This course will focus on the tools needed to understand, design, apply and analyze SDG related challenges in rural contexts to better understand the opinions and impacts on local stakeholders

There are two possible versions of this course, an online option and a field option

Online option

This is a classroom-based course that offers live and real time online access to people and processes in rural India. This gives professionals the opportunity to understand the complexity of various processes at the grassroots while also acquiring and practicing practical skills in field qualitative research methods and analysis of data. This model has been successfully tested out in the form of an online field course in 2022.

Field option

This is a field-based course that provides field experience in rural India, and gives professionals an opportunity to understand various processes at the grassroots level while also acquiring and practicing practical skills in the collection and analysis of data through qualitative research methods. This model has been tested successfully over several years in different contexts.

Course content

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are today the most recognizable blueprint that guides policy and actions across sectors for achieving global sustainability. The SDGs embody social, environmental and economic goals that require an understanding of plural contexts and various relationships between humans and their daily actions. One of the challenges for global goals is to address the significant societal gaps within and between nations. These gaps have direct implications on strategies to achieve global environmental, economic and developmental goals. The SDGs provides a viable framework for planning and monitoring the impacts of developmental interventions.

In this context, this course offers a tangible insight into challenges that influence developmental changes, including ones related to the multiple dimensions of poverty, access to health, access to schooling, water, infrastructure, gender and inequality. Additionaly it provides through training, practical skills for qualitative data collection and analysis to better understand such challenges.

This course thus provides an opportunity to bridge the gaps between theoretical and conceptual ideas and the lived experiences of various stakeholders. This is achieved by first-hand experience of SDG related challenges through direct interactions in rural India. It allows participants to observe how NGOs and government agencies address SDG-related challenges and an opportunity to learn how to design, apply and analyze SDG related challenges in rural contexts through qualitative data collection.

The course includes field visits and interactions with experts and people in rural villages in India. It incorporates direct instruction on how to turn questions pertaining to global and national policies and their impacts on rural and peri-urban communities into a research agenda, apply methodology to collect data, analyze data and draw conclusions in relation to research questions. It focuses on development of skills on a structured engagement with various stakeholders to incorporate their views and experiences to develop inclusive policies. These skills are transferable for use in other contexts and frameworks.

Learning outcomes/objectives

Knowledge and understanding

Upon successful completion of the course the participants will be able to:

  • Identify the relationship between global environment, development and landscape processes, contextual histories, culture, and local realities.
  • Understand local environment and development opportunities and challenges, link those to global environment and development discourses, and identify strategies applied in local contexts to address those.
  • Experience and understand the relationship between theory, method, and the practice of work and research through a combination of classroom theory, case studies, design, and remote application of fieldwork methods for data collection.
  • Be exposed to different ideas, adaptations, and solutions to environment and development challenges and opportunities through real life examples.


Participants will learn how to formulate a research topic linking global and local environment, development and landscape issues, design and apply field methods for data collection; Conduct an analysis, formulate, and present results combining theory, local realities, and field data to explain the relationship between global environment, development, landscape challenges, and the on-the-ground strategies to address those.

Target group and prior knowledge

People working in government agencies, consulates and embassies; employees of NGOs, civil society and humanitarian assistance and work; people who wish to experience and learn how to analyze issues related to rural and peri urban contexts in the context of a developing country. Prior knowledge to India or development theory is not required for successful participation in this course. The required knowledge and information will be provided during the course. Participants are not expected to speak any Indian languages for this course. English will be the primary language of communication with support from facilitators who are fluent in local languages and dialects.

For a successful completion of the course, applicants should have been exposed to a theoretical research methods course (qualitative and/or quantitative) on bachelor or master levels.  An overview of qualitative research methodology will be provided as part of the course followed by guidance in the implementation of the methods along with constructive feedback. 

Learning program

The course has three main parts*:

  • Background information and introduction to rural India
  • In depth understanding of contextual issues of communities in rural Rajasthan and formulation of relevant research agendas
  • Application of field research methods (e.g. transect walks, observations, interviews, focus groups discussion), analysis of data and write up.

*For the online course the interactions, field visits, and data collection will be conducted via live online transmissions through a designated facilitator in India; for the physical field course interactions will occur in the field in India.


The participants will be divided into theme-based groups based on their interests. Each group will be required to formulate a thematic research agenda, collect data, analyse the data, write a research report and present the report.

Upon successful completion of the tasks and full participation in the course the students will receive 10 academic credits.