Research and Learning

With a history of five decades of transforming lives through democratic and participatory development, Seva Mandir has been one of the first contacts for many scholars and academics interested in rural issues in India. As an institution working directly with rural communities for their empowerment, Seva Mandir has always been interested in conducting its own research as well as collaborating in research projects undertaken by those who wish to understand and evaluate the issues, problems and gaps at the grass roots, and identify solutions that are informed and evidence-based.

The results of these collaborative studies have been shared with civil society organisations in Udaipur and elsewhere, academics from national and international universities, individual researchers and relevant donor partners. These research projects have not only helped the world of

academia to develop and revise perspectives on development issues, but have also offered constructive insights to help Seva Mandir design its work strategy based on evidence, observations and propositions.

Seva Mandir also disseminates its findings and experience in seminars at district, state and national level.

Some of our research partners in the past have included Massachusetts Institute of Technology, J-PAL (Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab), IFMR (Institute for Financial Management and Research), McGill, Duke, Georgetown, Maharana Pratap Agricultural Universitiy, Behavioural Insights Team (UK), ICRISAT (International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics), LEAD Advocacy Network, and others.

Some important recent studies include:


Local Governance and Community Empowerment: Assessing the Impact of Seva Mandir’s Participatory Development Programs, Raj M. Desai (Georgetown) and Anders Olofsgård (Stockholm Institute of Transition Economics), 2018

This research study was conducted to evaluate how the presence of Seva Mandir has affected village communities at large. The purpose was to try to assess the impact on measures capturing the health of the village community as such, in line with Seva Mandir’s mission to ‘build stronger and more ethical communities’, and to promote self-sufficiency. It tried to evaluate not just the impact of a particular investment, but to get at the core of the ‘Seva Mandir approach’.


Adoption and Short-Term Impacts of Improved Biomass Cookstoves in Udaipur, Rajasthan, Sushmita Samaddar (Duke University), 2017

This research study was conducted to assess the results of an intervention in which 600 households were assigned to participate in a programme promoting and distributing improved cookstoves (ICS). ICS are seen as a modern technology that can be used to transition communities to a cleaner cooking behaviour.


Safeguarding the Commons for Next Generation, Krapavis, Bread For the World, Seva Mandir, 2014

This research project set out to spearhead a comprehensive effort towards research, collaboration, advocacy and networking on the issues of common lands and resources. Fifteen districts across five states were covered in the course of three years, one being Seva Mandir’s working areas in Udaipur district.
Incentives work: getting teachers to come to school. American Economic Review 102 (4): 1241-1278, Esther Duflo, Hanna Rema and Stephen Ryan, 2012
In this study, a randomised experiment and a structural model were used to test whether monitoring and financial incentives can reduce teacher absence and increase learning in India. In treatment schools, teachers’ attendance was monitored daily using cameras, and their salaries were made a nonlinear function of attendance.


Health and Health Care in Rajasthan: Identifying problems, designing solutions, E. Duflo, A. Banerjee, JPAL, 2004

This study was conducted in rural Udaipur to gauge the delivery of healthcare and the impact it has on the health status of the largely poor population of the region. The study shows that the quality of public service is extremely low and that unqualified private providers account for the bulk of healthcare provision. The low quality of public facilities has also had an adverse influence on the people’s health. Profs Duflo and Banerjee, along with their colleague Prof Michael Kremer, won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science in 2019 for their work, including this study and several others carried out in collaboration with Seva Mandir. 

 

Monitoring and evaluation

Seva Mandir also brings its intellectual rigour to bear on its own work, with a team dedicated to helping the different programmes monitor and evaluate all their work in line with the goals set out in the organisation’s strategic plans.

Staff and volunteers conduct regular project monitoring using digital methods of collecting and recording data using the Computer-Assisted Personal Interview (CAPI) technique.

The application helps capture progress against the planned activities. Participatory evaluation sessions are conducted with community members at regular intervals to keep track of the processes and progress made in various interventions. Evaluation of project outcomes is done through baseline, midline and end-line studies. The end-line exercises are carried out one year after the completion of the project.

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