The Barefoot Research Initiative found that, despite not coming from academia, grassroots activists who independently conduct research can be successful researchers and contribute to the knowledge domain.Sohan Prasad Sha Tweet
The project had three aims: to decentralise knowledge production away from Kathmundu, the capital of Nepal, towards under-researched regions; to challenge the assumption that social science research can only take place in an academic setting; and to make research socially inclusive and accessible to grassroots activists from non-academic, underprivileged backgrounds who face barriers to participating in traditional academic settings. These barriers include access to research funding, mentorship, language, and caste barriers.
The project matters because of the weak status of higher education and academic research in Nepal, particularly in the social sciences and humanities at a regional level. The Barefoot Initiative provides a frugal way to bring social issues in under-researched regional areas of Nepal into mainstream public interest.
Numerous visits to the Western Tarai districts and Madhesh Province of Nepal were made between December 2017 and Dec 2023 to assess the intellectual landscapes. Certain factors were crucial in scouting for researchers/individuals with the snowball sampling technique and we met more than 60 activists in the region. We were interested in meeting with individuals who may have substantial experiences either informed by their locally-embedded activism or by their fact of being local researchers who work within the communities they research and write about. The formal qualifications of the individuals were restricted to a bachelor’s degree (not compulsory though) without any concern for their disciplinary focus. They were required to be professionally engaged in these regions. The individuals inducted in this BR initiative were to represent the social and intellectual diversity of the region as well.