From Classroom to Fieldwork

Salima Visram, BA International Development Studies

The Soular Backpack

Soular was launched in 2014 at McGill, and the first product was The Soular Backpack – a backpack with a solar panel on it that enables children in rural parts of East Africa to study every night without the use, cost and health effects of the carcinogenic kerosene lamp. So far, they have been distributed across Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Social impact assessment shows an improvement in grades and health, and families have been able to save 20% of their income that was previously spent on kerosene. Salima got the idea over the summer, then researched it more during her Fall semester, while taking a class with Professor Mark Berlin and an independent research study with Dr Anita Nowak. Both of these classes were instrumental in getting the research she needed to start the social enterprise.


Aaron Friedland, Honours BA International Development Studies

The Walking School Bus

The Walking School Bus was initially founded with the sole purpose to empower access to education. However, since its conception, the organization has undergone a metamorphosis which now encapsulates a more holistic approach to educational attainment: access, nutrition and curriculum. This past summer, TWSB travelled to rural Mbale, Uganda, where they studied the dangers students face on their long walks to school, highlighting the need to improve their transportation infrastructure, through gifting a school bus. They planted gardens, teaching their partnered schools how to grow nutritionally rich crops through our CSA model that not only teaches improved agricultural practices but adds nutritional diversity to lunch programs.


Rajdev Brar, MA Economics

Taking on Poverty in India

Rajdev has been working at the Poverty Action Lab in India for around six months as a Research Associate on the Haryana Immunization Project. The project has partnered with the Government of Haryana to understand how to increase full immunization rates across seven districts in the Indian state of Haryana. The project is both a scale-up of the famous Udaipur study on incentives for immunization and a randomized evaluation. They are using social networks, targeted SMS reminders, and incentives in this study. As a Research Associate, she gets to see the data collection process from start to finish. She brainstorms the outcomes of interest, creates surveys and survey protocols to measure these outcomes, hires and trains field staff to collect data, and cleans and conducts basic analysis of this data. Her team is also on regular calls with the Principal Investigators of this project, including Professor Esther Duflo, which has given her great insight into the decision-making process of some of the best academics in the field of development.

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