India was the destination of Giovanna Grossi, coordinator of WatShop at the University of Brescia, Italy, who in November 2019 visited PRIA, Participatory Research in Asia, a global centre for participatory research and training based in New Delhi. The visit was part of exchange and twinning activity undertaken by the Horizon 2020 SciShops project supported through a travel awards scheme.
Established in 1982, for over three decades PRIA has been promoting ‘participation as empowerment’, capacity building of community organisations, and people’s participation in governance. Over three days, Giovanna got to meet members of PRIA staff, including the founder and president, Dr Rajesh Tandon, to learn all about their work. As highlighted by Dr Tandon, both training and networking are pillars for participatory research sustainability, and Giovanna also learnt about the international Knowledge for Change consortium. An initiative of the UNESCO Chair in Community-Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education, of Dr Tandon is one of the co-chairs, Knowledge for Change hubs offer local training to develop research capacity for community-based research, and can currently be found in a number of countries around the world. During the visit, Giovanna also met Professor Mwemezi J. Rwiza from the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science & Technology (NM-AIST) Materials, Energy, Water and Environmental Sciences (MEWES), Tanzania, which is in the process of becoming a Knowledge for Change Hub.
The trip also included a field visit to a secondary school in a small village, where PRIA is carrying out a project focused on teenagers and gender issues. As part of the project, mentors facilitate discussion among the pupils in weekly one hour sessions and Giovanna was able to learn about how participatory research can be used to handle delicate social issues and trigger changes in communities.
“Visiting PRIA was very inspiring for the coordination and management of our Science Shop in Brescia,” commented Giovanna Grossi. “They are an excellent example of a sustainable initiative, which started small and is enlarging year by year, despite difficulties due to their specific socio-cultural context. Each member of the staff proudly plays a well defined role within the organisation, with a positive and conscientious attitude. It is not a university but a quiet and friendly research center with pleasant study rooms and a rich library. One very important lesson that I learned about community engagement was that although ‘local communities’ might be geographically located quite far away, it is well worth reaching them physically to get them involved.”
“Many ideas for future cooperation came out of the meeting. We talked about summer schools and short training courses. Last but not least about the opportunity to candidate our Science Shop to become a hub of the Knowledge for Change consortium (K4C),” she added.