Undergraduate Workshop: Fieldwork for international development dissertations

The Developing Areas Research Group (DARG Royal Geographical Society-IBG) is absolutely delighted to announce that they will host their annual Undergraduate dissertation workshop for students interested in doing fieldwork in the Global South. You will hear from world leading researchers, including Prof David Hulme (Global Development Institute, University of Manchester), Dr. Kate McLean (Geography, Birkbeck, University of London), Dr. Rubina Jasani (Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute, University of Manchester) and Dr Jennifer O’Brien (Manchester University) who have carried out extensive work in different and challenging environments in ‘development’ contexts. They will share their personal accounts of the difficulties of research in such contexts, as well as their ‘top tips’.
The event will also give you opportunity to find out about the ‘nitty gritty’ related to the logistics of preparing for the ‘field’. And there will be mini workshops focusing on key issues: ‘Mental health in the field’; ‘Ethics in development research’; and ‘Translation’. These workshops will also be led by researchers, working in the ‘global south’. The workshop is aimed at second year students planning to do their dissertation research in a development context.
This is an event not to be missed as it will give you the opportunity to think through your own dissertation topic and how you may go about gathering data.


 The event will take place at Manchester University, University place, Room 4.204 on the 31st January 2018


The eventbrite page can be found here
Places are limited! There is a £10 registration fee which is payable on arrival. The event starts at 10am and ends at 5pm.
To register, or for further information please email: Dr. Raksha Pande at raksha.pande@newcastle.ac.uk

Postgraduate Workshop Resources


In November 2017 DARG ran a postgraduate workshop focusing on developing a communications and impact strategy for your work. For those who were unable to attend we have included some useful resources below and a communication and impact plan template available to use here.



Useful resources

  • INASP does a lot of work with development policy-makers and can provide useful advice on Policy Influence Plans. In addition, they have some great resources for those working in developing countries, and information about communicating research with academics and practitioners in other countries. (Follow them on Twitter: @INASPinfo)


  • Research to Action has a huge number of resources on making sure your research is accessible and used by development practitioners and policymakers. Specifically, there are loads of useful guides and templates available here. (Follow them on Twitter: @Research2Action)


  • Communications & Impact strategy guides: In addition to our basic template, ESRC has a useful guide here, and a list of alternatives can be found here.


  • If you’re interested in creative methods of communication, check out PositiveNegatives, which produces some fantastic comics and animations on humanitarian and development issues. (Follow them on Twitter: @PosNegOrg) If you think a creative medium could be a great way to share your work/research “story” with particular groups, why not check out the Arts-based courses taught at your university – producing a film, animation, comic, podcast etc. linked to your research could be a great project for an undergraduate or Masters-level student, either as part of their course or to develop their portfolio…



  • Remember to check out courses offered by your institution. Most have training or resources on publishing, working with the media, using social media as an academic etc. And if they don’t, make a request for them to start offering such support! It’s also worth making sure you are always letting someone from your university or research centre know if you are trying to promote a publication/blog post/presentation etc. so they can help you to share it widely and offer you communications support.


  • Lastly, if you are thinking of trying out Twitter as an academic, start off by ‘following’ some DARG-related profiles:
    – RGS Postgraduate Forum: @PGF_RGSIBG
    – RGS Postgrad Forum for Masters students: @PGFmasters
    – RGS Higher Education: @RGS_IBGhe
    – Prof Dorothea Kleine: @dorotheakleine
    – Gemma Pearson: @GemKPea
    – Hannah Smith: @hannahesmith_13
    … and check out who they follow.

DARG Undergraduate Dissertation Prize Winner

We are delighted to announce the winner of this years Undergraduate Dissertation Prize; Clara Ida Bartram Gurresø from the University of Edinburgh with the title ‘Why do People Volunteer? A Critical Study into the Motivations of International Volunteers’. Many congratulations Clara!


The DARG committee thought that Clara’s dissertation was insightful and innovative with excellent discussion of critical development issues. It was deemed to be an authoritative and professional dissertation that provides an excellent contribution to geographical knowledge on the morality of international voluntourism.

Clara’s winning dissertation can be read here.


We received many fantastic dissertations so we would like to acknowledge all of the hard work and enthusiasm from all the students whose dissertations were submitted.


The Developing Areas Research Group in conjunction with Routledge offers an annual prize for the most promising dissertation concerning ‘The Geography of Developing Areas’. The author of the winning dissertation receives £100 worth of Routledge books of their choice, and 20% discount on any further Routledge books ordered.


The prize is open to any student taking a first degree in Geography. Students taking joint degrees are eligible to enter for the prize, provided that at least half their course is in Geography. It is suggested that no Department of Geography submits more than one dissertation for this prize. Dissertations will be evaluated by three members of the DARG Committee.

DARG Postgraduate Travel Award Report- Belen Martinez

Empowering women through a non-traditional economic activity: A case study of a female operated trekking company in Ladakh


My research, based on a feminist approach, analyses how a group of women in Ladakh is navigating their gender relations in order to work in the trekking sector, a traditionally male dominated environment. By using a case study of the only all-female run travel company in Ladakh, the research addresses the impact that challenging stereotypes is having for these women. It also studies the impact that a project like this can have in contrast to an income generation program.

The idea came from a personal interest in the role of women in different cultures and how particular activities can shape women’s agency impacting individuals and wider society. Ladakh was chosen as an example of the impact of modernisation and the connection between sustainability and women. Ladakh remained almost totally isolated, until 1962 when a road was built by the Indian Army to link the region with the rest of the country. Then, in 1975, the region was opened up to foreign tourists, and the process of development began. Because this process has happened in a short period of time, it is easy to see the detrimental effect upon community and ecology that progress in Ladakh is having. In this context, women are the ones taking an active role in preserving their culture and looking for alternative incomes.


General overview

Although the importance of women’s empowerment in achieving sustainable development has been increasingly recognised, still most initiatives focus on income-generating projects for poor women in the assumption that the economic empowerment will also bring empowerment to other aspects of their lives. These initiatives are trying to respond to the need of poor women by making relatively small investments in income-generating projects. Often such projects fail because they are motivated by welfare and not development concerns, offering women temporary and part-time employment in traditionally female skills such as knitting and sewing which have limited markets. The question arises as to whether women would be more empowered if they had the option to leave traditionally female-dominated work roles and enter other economic sectors.


Research and fieldwork

Thanks to the DARG postgraduate travel award I could travel to Leh in September 2016 to conduct my research. Being there for a month and conducting face-to-face in-depth interviews to collect primary data was vital. It was important to carry out the interviews in situ so I could provide an appropriate space for participants to express themselves, as well as give examples of their everyday working lives.

The participants were all trekking guides currently working in the Ladakhi Women’s Travel Company (LWTC). The LWTC is a travel agency owned and operated by Ladakhi women. Local guide Thinlas Chorol founded the LWTC in 2009 to give women in Ladakh the opportunity to participate in the traditionally male-dominated areas of trekking and mountain climbing. The LWTC is the only all-female trekking agency in Ladakh, with women involved in organising and running treks, which also serves as a unique example to the rest of women in Ladakh.

In total, I conducted eleven audio-recorded interviews. These were conducted in English, which meant no translator was necessary, and therefore without anyone else present, ensuring the anonymity of participants.


Findings and Discussion

The results have shown different impacts in diverse areas and the complexity of how these women are negotiating their role between their public and private lives. By working in the mountaineering sector, they have achieved financial independence and have learnt about other cultures, improving their ability to communicate with others and bringing some self-efficacy. As well as gaining confidence from learning English and meeting foreigners, many participants seem to feel empowered by and proud of working in a role traditionally filled by men. However, in the private sphere, women are still expected to fulfil their role of carer and their household responsibilities, resulting in a double burden when they join the labour market. The research has also shown that these women are still not prepared to profoundly challenge the socio-cultural norms and expectations imposed upon them.

A high agency of decision-making was visible in their independence in controlling economic resources, which in turn shows a high level of economic empowerment. However, their participation in the village councils seems to be extremely low, which shows how unrepresented and unheard they are in the decision-making structures. These women have not yet gained the necessary confidence to insist on their voices being heard in the political sphere.

The findings demonstrate that projects focusing only on economic empowerment ignore other vital aspects of women’s empowerment, allowing social and patriarchal norms to go unchallenged and continue to limit women’s lives. Freeing women from these constraints and unlocking their potential should be considered a priority in future initiatives.


DARG Postgraduate Travel Prize Winner- Belen Martinez

Many congratulations to Belen Martinez who was awarded this years DARG Postgraduate travel prize. Belen is about to start her research project as part of her MSc in Sustainable Development at the University of the West of England.

The title of her research project is:

“Empowering Women through non-traditional economic activities. A case study of a female operated travel company in Ladakh”

Belen Martinez

 The research project aims to explore the involvement of women in non-traditional economic activities as a way to empower them and impact their communities. It intends to explore it by focussing on women working in a male-dominated environment such as mountaineering using the case of the Ladakhi Women Travel Company based in Leh, India.

Despite empowerment becoming a widely used term in the sustainability field, there is scant research into the empowering aspects of non-traditional work, especially in a male dominated environment. Trekking has always been a thoroughly male-dominated economic sector in Ladakh. By using the case study of the only all-female run travel company there, this research plans to address the impact of non-traditional work in relation to gender and development and how it can differ from an income generation program.

Ladakh was chosen as an example of the impact of modernisation and the connection between sustainability and women. The development in Ladakh is having a detrimental effect upon community and ecology, and women are taking an active role in preserving their culture and looking for alternative income.

This project will be framed around the ideas of Ecofeminism and the emphasis in the ways both nature and women are treated by patriarchal society. Ecofeminists agree that the domination of women and the domination of nature are fundamentally connected and that environmental efforts are therefore integral with work to overcome the oppression of women.


We wish Belen the best of luck with her research and are looking forward to her report on her return.

If you are interested in postgraduate funding from DARG the next closing date will be 1st May 2017. More information can be found on our funding page.


Undergraduate Development Dissertation Workshop

The DARG Undergraduate Development Dissertation Workshop took place on Saturday 16th January 2016 at UCL, London and covered a range of topics to give geography undergraduates information and guidance on designing and implementing their dissertations. The day included talks on research design, the logistics of fieldwork and ethics and reflections on doing a development undergraduate dissertation. We also had methods sessions on participant observation and ethnography, using surveys, interviews and focus groups, and translation.


Thank you very much to all the students who came along and made the day such a success as well as to Jess Hope and Kate Maclean for organising.

For further events and funding opportunities from DARG please visit our website or follow us on twitter

Please select the below links to view the powerpoint lectures used on the day:

Ben Page: Research Design

Jess Hope: Logistics- Preparing for research, being in the field & leaving

Kate Maclean: Translation

Penny Vera-Sanso: Ethnography


For further information on the speakers and their contact details please see below:

Lottie Heales is a development geographer from King’s College London with a particular focus on rural livelihoods. Her research focuses on the use of agricultural microfinancing by smallholders in Malawi as well as examining the global microfinance phenomenon. She uses a combination of quantitative and qualitative techniques in order to build more nuanced pictures of livelihoods in rural Malawi. She is a guest lecturer in the geography department of KCL and currently works as a researcher on global social innovation at the Young Foundation. Email: charlotte.heales@kcl.ac.uk 

Jessica Hope Jessica Hope is a lecturer in the Geography Department at the University of Cambridge, where she teaches political ecology and development geography. Her research contributes to political ecology by investigating the politics, power relations and conflicts that determine emerging environmental and development agendas. She is particularly interested in the politics of radical alternatives and the ways that transformative socio-environmental paths are voiced, supported or foreclosed. Her empirical focus is Bolivia. Email: jch84@cam.ac.uk

Kate Maclean is Lecturer in Social Geography at Birkbeck, University of London. She is a feminist geographer who has conducted research, as an academic and as a  development consultant, in Bolivia, Colombia, Mexico, Mali and Burkina Faso.  She has worked on microfinance, rural livelihoods, contraband and urban regeneration, mostly with a focus on Latin America.  She has published in various journals, including Antipode, Development and Change and Gender, Place and Culture, and has a new book out with Palgrave – ‘Social Urbanism and the politics of violence: the Medellín Miracle.’  Her latest project is entitled ‘El Alto Millionaires: Processes of displacement, identity and urban change in the Global South’and is funded by the Leverhulme Trust. Email K.maclean@bbk.ac.uk

Ben Page is a development geographer with specific research and teaching interests in the relationship between international migration and international development. His expertise is primarily focused on Cameroon in Central/West Africa. Current research is examining the role of international migration in the process of of creating a new African middle class by looking at the house-building activities within Africa by members of the African diaspora. This has built on work that looked at the associational life of African diasporas and the impact of diaspora associations on development in Africa. Future work will continue to address class formation by looking at everyday activities around food.  Earlier research has analysed: (1) the history of community development in Cameroon and the role of community development in the provision of public services (2) the commodification of water in Cameroon and popular resistance to that process (3) water privatization in Cameroon (4) the history of water engineering in Cameroon and Nigeria (5) urban agriculture in Cameroon. Email:  b.page@ucl.ac.uk

Penny Vera Sanso lectures in Development Studies at Birkbeck and is Director of the Social Anthropology programme. She has a BA (Hons) in Anthropology and Geography from University College London (1985) and a PhD in Social Anthropology from Goldsmiths (1994). Alongside her academic career Penny has founded two housing co-operatives in north London.  Penny has published widely on later life and gender relations in India, particularly on the impact of liberalisation and the global economy on livelihoods and gender and generational relations in low-income households and, more recently, on ageism and age discrimination and the role of older people’s paid and unpaid work in supporting India’s economy.  Recently she has focused her interest in developing visual materials to make her research available to the general public.  The documentary ‘We’re Still Working’ can be seen on bit.ly/1qDR40Y (English version) and bit.ly/1n7TT9p (Hindi version).  Email p.vera-sanso@bbk.ac.uk

Postgraduate Travel Award

DARG provides an annual award to a postgraduate geography student to encourage and assist fieldwork in developing countries.

It is aimed at those preparing for a PhD in topics related to development studies. Applicants should be based at a British institution of higher education, but may be of any nationality. The award must be spent on travel costs, and preference may be given to students in the early stages of their research. The successful candidate is required to provide a short report for the DARG Website.
The award is £800, although smaller awards are sometimes made.

The annual deadline is 1 May. The criteria for the award are:

· Quality of the project design
· Potential significance of the results
· Support from referee (usually the supervisor)
· Financial need
There is no application form, but the following information must be included in all applications as Word/.pdf documents:

Outline of the proposed research (maximum 3 pages – to include full budget)
A full curriculum vitae (including all qualifications and current institutional affiliation)
Full details of all existing or expected financial support
Applicants must also ensure that a reference (normally from the supervisor) arrives before the deadline. Please note that incomplete or late applications will not be considered. Completed applications will be judged by a panel of development geographers and the result notified in June.

All applications should be sent by email to DARG Chair, Nina Laurie: nina.laurie@st-andrews.ac.uk

Deadline: 1 May 2016

DARG Undergraduate Development Dissertation Workshop- March 21st 2015

The upcoming DARG Undergraduate Development Dissertation Workshop will be held on Saturday, March 21st 2015, at UCL London.
This one-day workshop is aimed at undergraduate students considering doing their final year dissertation on a topic related to Development Geography while being based abroad or in the UK. It’s a great chance for students to get information and advice on planning and designing their projects, choosing methods and going on fieldwork.
It is £10 for members, £12 to join DARG & attend and includes lunch. Tickets can be bought HERE
A taster of what past workshops have covered can be found HERE

HEA STEM (GEES): Field courses in the Global South for Geography, Earth and Environmental Science students in UK higher education

This briefing report is intended to support fieldwork to destinations in the Global South1 for students in all GEES disciplines (Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences) at UK institutions of higher education. While the focus is on field courses at undergraduate level, many of the issues identified will also be relevant to postgraduate field courses in the Global South. This briefing report is intended to support fieldwork to destinations in the Global South1 for students in all GEES disciplines (Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences) at UK institutions of higher education. While the focus is on field courses at undergraduate level, many of the issues identified will also be relevant to postgraduate field courses in the Global South.

You can access the full report by going to the Higher Education Academy website here http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/resources/detail/disciplines/stem/gees-fieldcourse-publication