Research Associate, Video Volunteers

Interested in Action Research? Excited about community journalism and local politics? This is a great opportunity to work with academics and one of India’s leading NGOs on an applied research program. Come hone your qualitative research skills and gain unique field experience!

Project: “Voice and Response: Citizen journalism and bureaucratic responsiveness”
Partner Organization: Video Volunteers 
Lead Researchers: Dr. Gabrielle Kruks-Wisner, University of Virginia, USA; Dr. Tanu Kumar, Claremont Graduate University, USA
Project duration: Sept.– Dec. /Jan., 2022-23 (4 months, with possibility to extend)
Hours: Part time (80 hours/month); full time during periods of travel and fieldwork
Required training: September 2022 (date TBD, location: Goa)
Locations: Remote work from any location in India, with required travel to fieldwork sites in Goa, Bihar, and/or Uttar Pradesh

How to apply: Upload letter of interest and CV: https://forms.gle/xkALnaPnsWbsdtiG8
Application deadline: ASAP (applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis until August 31st)

Background

Video Volunteers (VV) is India’s largest community media organization, which supports a network of roughly 200 citizen journalists (“CommunityCorrespondents”) who, armed with smartphones and video cameras, “shoot injustice on sight”— filming entitlement violations and deficiencies in local service provision. They use these videos to attempt to motivate public officials to solve the problems at hand, and to mobilize community members to accompany them in this claim-making process. VV tracks the screening of videos and officials’ responses, estimating that one in five videos are associated with an observable impact (for example: repair of a water source, delivery of delayed pensions, or the staffing of a health clinic).

Video Volunteers is collaborating with Dr. Kruks-Wisner (University of Virginia) and Dr. Kumar (Claremont Graduate University) to study the conditions that affect these impacts; that is, the factors that enable or inhibit successful local problem solving. The research is funded by the MIT GOV/LAB and University of Virginia’s Center for Global Innovation and Inquiry.

Research Study

Under what conditions can citizen voice increase bureaucratic responsiveness? Appointed officials are important gatekeepers to government programs and resources, but often operate in the face of information and capacity gaps; they are ill-informed about local needs and work under conditions of bureaucratic overload. The same officials, moreover, are not directly answerable to citizens, but rather to higher-ups in the bureaucracy or to political patrons. How, then, can citizens hold appointed officials to account? This project takes up this question in partnership with Video Volunteers, to explore the conditions under which local administrators are most likely to respond to citizens’ grievances, captured and presented by local citizen journalists. Our aim is to explore the interplay between information provision in the form of citizen reporting and bureaucratic motivation. Through a combination of qualitative research, surveys, and experiments, we ask: What knowledge gaps and other obstacles do officials face, and when and how might citizen reporting assist officials in overcoming these? What drives bureaucrats to not only hear but respond to information about local needs?

Position details
The Research Associate will be engaged in an intensive, qualitative study of bureaucratic responsiveness. We are interested in the flows of information that reach officials, their knowledge and capacity gaps, their motivations, and the various ways that citizen reporting might influence bureaucratic behavior. The RA will study these themes from two perspectives:

(1) By working with a sample of Community Correspondents (CCs) to guide, observe, and document their interactions with officials. This work will be carried out in direct collaboration with Video Volunteers, with regular inputs from the lead researchers. This will be the primary task at the start of the research project.

Responsibilities include:
● Working with VV staff to train CCs in carrying out interviews (guided conversations) with
officials.
● Interviewing CCs (by phone and/or in person) after they visit government offices; field visits
to selected CCs may be required.
● Ensuring full written documentation of the CCs’ experiences and discussions with officials.
● Distilling findings to share – approximately every 2 weeks – with the research team, in order
to shape the evolving research design.
● Assisting VV in documentation and writing reports to summarize research findings.
● Attending and documenting VV training events.
● Assisting VV in data analysis tasks.

(2) By directly engaging, observing, and interviewing a sample of block level officials in a selected state (TBD, likely Bihar or Uttar Pradesh). This work will be carried out in collaboration with the lead researchers, with regular inputs from the VV team. This work will take place in the second half of the research project, and will require periods of travel for fieldwork.

Responsibilities include:
● Contacting officials to set up meetings and request interviews.
● Piloting a semi-structured interview guide.
● Documenting field visits, interview responses, and interactions with officials.
● If possible, shadowing a small sample of block officials (with requisite permissions).
● Distilling findings to share – approximately every 2 weeks — with the research team, in order
to shape the evolving research design.

Requirements
● There is a mandatory training session at the Video Volunteers office in September, date TBD.
● Some aspects of the work can be carried out remotely (e.g. phone interviews, online meetings, analysis and report writing), but fieldwork visits to assigned sites (for the purposes of interviewing both CCs and officials) will be required, as will regular visits to VV’s offices in Anjuna, Goa. Being based (or able to relocate) to Goa is desirable, but not required.
● The research team will follow strict Covid-19 and other health and safety guidelines.

Qualifications
● Social science background (B.A. or higher; in-progress degrees will be considered)
● Fluency in Hindi (native speakers preferred) and in English
● Prior fieldwork experience (at least one year preferred)
● Willingness to travel within India
● Qualitative research skills, and experience in interviewing
● Basic knowledge of statistics
● Proficiency in Microsoft Office programs / Google Suite and an interest in continued
knowledge of technology as it evolves
● Demonstrated excellence in both verbal and written communication
● Demonstrated attention to detail and high level of organization
● Strong interests in the topics of citizen media, local governance, and/or social justice

Payment
Monthly salary for a part time position (80 hours/month) will range from ₹25,000-40,000 (commensurate with experience). During periods of required fieldwork, salary will be prorated daily from a full time base (₹50,000-80,000, at 160 hours/month). During fieldwork, a small living stipend and reimbursement for travel costs will be provided.