Involving Students in Social Science Experiments

By Deepti KC

The development sector in India has been a vibrant scene – many private and public institutions are engaged in efforts to raise the living standards of the rural poor. From non-profit organizations offering financial services to for-profit social enterprises, India has served as a laboratory for social innovation and social entrepreneurship. However, awareness about the social enterprise is fairly low among India’s bright student population, many of whom remained focused on pursuing conventional and lucrative careers. Not many of the urban students are aware or have witnessed the challenges that the poor face, be it in the urban or rural setting. We at CMF have always believed that this fact can be changed by creating a platform for students wherein they can gain systematic knowledge about development programs and conditions in rural areas and urban slums.

Recently, we organized an exposure trip for 20 MBA students from IFMR Business School, wherein the students played a role of field researchers in a research project focusing on financial behaviour of the poor from urban slums. The main objective of this field trip was to enable students to hone their social skills and critical thinking and also instil a feeling or sense of the communities that they work with. As field researchers, students went to five slums of Chennai to collect rigorous quantitative and qualitative data on the effectiveness of microfinance programme. They were asked to interview 100 microfinance clients and document their observations and thoughts during the exercise.
Our team learnt that one of the benefits of sending students to the field is that they are exposed to beneficiaries first hand. Such exposure trips can provide students practical insight into actual problems faced by the poor in India. We believe that encouraging primary research and providing students with a chance to observe social organizations in action will boost their awareness about the social sector and in the long run, we will be able to rope in more young minds in the social sector. CMF is committed to achieving this goal and we hope that more young minds feel invigorated enough not only to enter the sector but also to commit themselves towards making a positive change for the poor.
Students’ Views
“Urban poor was not the picture of poverty I had in mind, however, I admit that they are

not leading a comfortable life- land and housing are two major issues faced by people.” –Abshishikth K

“Understanding the needs and aspirations of the poor and how they met the same despite the odds was an eye-opener for me.” Yamini
“There are even lessons that one can imbibe from the poor, given the fact they earn less and have multiple sources of income – they budget on a regular basis and plan accordingly.” Yogarchana
“Social sector is very diverse and its various mechanisms make research in the same a very exciting career prospect.” Suvarna
“There is a lot of work that needs to be done in this sector and the umpteen number of

social development programmes are questionable as problems still loom large.”Debanjali