LSE social intern profiles

Genevieve Joy

MPA Public and Social Policy

What was your project about?

Identification of opportunities for promotion of livelihood of rural population through agriculture and allied activities with Tata Chemicals Society for Rural Development in Haldia, West Bengal

What did your project involve you doing?

I analyzed 7 agriculture projects that have been underway for between 1 and 10 years in nearby rural villages and wrote recommendations about which projects should be scaled up, which should be dropped, and offered new ideas for potential income-generating activities. My role also required me to conduct interviews and focus groups with project participants, especially women, to learn about their experiences and opinions. I also had to do a fair amount of desk research and interviews with Tata Chemicals staff.

What skills and knowledge did you use?

I drew from my background in agriculture from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN and on qualitative research skills acquired during the MPA. Since my internship was during the monsoon season, I also had to be innovative about how to use my time productively when I was rained in and prevented from going to the field.

What did you enjoy most?

The absolute best was going to the field to meet the women, see the projects in action, and get to know people from a completely different and beautiful world. The generosity of my colleagues, who checked in on me every day, taught me to play cricket, and took me out to my first Bollywood film, was exceptional. And, of course, the food.

What did you find most challenging?

The most challenging part of the internship was the remoteness of my location. I made some long-lasting friends and I enjoyed exploring Haldia, but being in a rural environment limited my autonomy. As an athlete, I had to be creative about how to stay active (yoga and body circuits in my room) and I became good at being alone most evenings and some weekends. That said, I was happy with my placement and valued the opportunity to get out of my comfort zone for a couple months.

What did you learn?

I learned a lot about the realistic aspects of qualitative data collection, which is extremely useful for a social scientist or policymaker. In class, you learn about the gold standards for randomization and selection in sampling, but in reality you can’t always be rigorous about the composition of focus groups. Since I was traveling to villages during the middle of the day when many people were busy working or caring for their children, I was just happy to conduct my surveys and focus groups at all. 

Billie Elmqvist Thurén

BSc International Relations

What was your project about?

In the Okhamandal taluka of Gujarat, Tata Chemicals Society for Rural Development (TCSRD) is involved in the promotion of sustainable livelihoods, both farm- and non-farm-based. Non-farm-based livelihood initiatives include the promotion of industry relevant skill development programmes, while farm-based livelihood initiatives include crop breed improvement, water management, and other activities related to the enhancement of agricultural productivity. Over a period of time, however, TCSRD has recognized that there are numerous socio-cultural challenges to the successful facilitation of these initiatives. As such, TCSRD requested that I provide a documentation of these challenges, by investigating the perceptions of skill-based vocational training versus agro-based livelihood from a socio-cultural perspective. Based on my findings, I also provided a list of recommendations on how TCSRD could strategize its livelihood initiatives for the future.

What did your project involve you doing?

Since the concept ‘socio-cultural’ is quite broad and elusive, I chose to narrow down the scope of my study and focus on two main socio-cultural indicators – genderand caste/community. I spent the first couple of weeks trying to understand the gender norms and caste/community relations of Okhamandal, through secondary literature, conversations with TCSRD staff and my own observations. I then established a list of key respondents, which included students from TCSRD’s Skill Development Centre, self-help group women involved in handicraft enterprises, farmers who had taken part in TCSRD’s agriculture initiatives and village leaders. I employed participatory techniques such as semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions to gather primary data from these respondents, with questions designed in such a way so as to deduct answers related to gender and caste/community.

What skills and knowledge did you use?

I found it helpful to have studied gender in the context of India during my undergraduate studies, even though those studies were not directly applicable to the region of Okhamandal. I also found my research and analytical skills to come to good use when conducting my landscape analysis of the socio-cultural make-up of the region. When it came to the actual writing of the report, time management and writing skills were key. Furthermore, I used interpersonal skills to gain the trust of my respondents, establish good relationships and tailor my questions so that they resonated with my interviewees.

What did you enjoy most?

The most enjoyable aspect of the internship was meeting and making friends with people with such different lives and worldviews compared to mine. To me, that is the best learning experience there is, as it allows you to question all those preconceived ideas you may have about a certain culture or nation. There are also specific moments of the internship that I will always remember, such as when I was served tea with milk straight out of a farmer’s buffalo, when a group of musicians forced me to sing traditional, religious songs with them and when a family dressed me up in all of their heirloom jewellery. Having studied development from a very academic and critical point of view, I was also happy to see the real-life impact that development initiatives actually can have on the lives of people who benefit from them.

What did you find most challenging?

The most challenging part of the internship was understanding what my project was really about. It took me a few weeks to identify key respondents and develop my methodology. Furthermore, my project required me to ask quite complex and sensitive questions, which, in addition to translation issues, made it difficult to get the answers I wanted. In addition, since TCSRD staff members had their own projects to take care of, they did not always have time to take me out in the field. I often felt quite stressed over whether I would be able to complete my project on time.

What did you learn/how does the internship fit with your future career plans/helped you think about the future?

I have always wanted to work in development, but had not had much fieldwork experience prior to this internship. As such, this internship became a bit of test of whether I could see myself working in this field in the future. Having completed the internship, I am without doubt that international development is the right field for me. I also hope to be able to work in India again. This fall, I have been admitted to the MSc Development Management programme at LSE. I am confident that my experience in India will be helpful in completing my masters, bringing a practical element into my academic studies.

Polchate (Jam) Kraprayoon

BSc Government

What was your project about?

I developed at ‘road map’ for creating a corporate sustainability strategy and governance system for Voltas Ltd, which is Tata’s applied engineering firm.

What did your project involve you doing?

My project involved researching global corporate sustainability best-practice and the current and emerging regulatory environment, evaluating the maturity of competitor’s sustainability practices, and evaluating the company’s current sustainability practices. Using these inputs, I mapped out a structured pathway for the company to formulate a corporate sustainability strategy and made recommendations on particular facets of corporate sustainability e.g. identifying sustainability issues and adopting particular governance arrangement.

What skills and knowledge did you use?

In general, I used project management skills, general research skills, and my background knowledge of sustainability during this project. Specifically, I conducted a literature review on international and Indian corporate sustainability practice and analysed Voltas’ competitors through company reports and other online resources. I also conducted several in-depth interviews with management across departments including at the executive-level and collected data on company environmental tracking using questionnaires. I also visited two manufacturing facilities, in Thane and Dadra, in order to get a first-hand view of production processes.

What did you enjoy most?

Aside from all the wonderful people I had the chance to meet and spend time with, I greatly enjoyed getting to explore Mumbai. It’s a wonderful city, with beautiful architecture and a plethora of delicious food options. Speaking from personal experience, I found the locals incredibly friendly and since I frequently got lost, I found they were incredibly willing to lend a helping hand. Being able to spend time in a city for two months gives you a good amount to wander around and get really ‘stuck in’.

What did you find most challenging?

My project scope was very large and seemed to be coupled with an opportunity to make a substantial difference, both factors made the project quite intimidating. I found it most challenging to temper my expectations and set more reasonable expectations for the project given the short time I would have at Voltas (two months) and the steep learning curve involved.

What did you learn/how does the internship fit with your future career plans/helped you think about the future?

On the project side, I developed a theoretical understanding of sustainability as well as a practical understanding of how it applies to large-scale organisations in the developing world. More generally, I learnt a lot about project management, working independently, conducting interviews involving technical information, and communicating effectively in a corporate environment. I have strong interest in both sustainability practice and organisational reform and feel that my experience in this project has furthered my understanding of both fields. I think that these skills and knowledge will directly help me during my placement at UNESCAP, working on environment and development issues, as well as further in the future.

Hana Chambers

Master's in Public Administration (MPA)

What was your project about?

I had one major project and one smaller project. The main project was to evaluate the effect of a primary education programme, funded by Tata Communications, implemented in schools in slum areas of Mumbai. I also worked on an employability project targeting affirmative action individuals in Mumbai, documenting the experiences of beneficiaries who were receiving trade-specific training which was also sponsored by Tata Communications.

What did your project involve you doing?

For the education project:

  • I conducted a rapid effectiveness study of the education intervention, which involved quantitative and qualitative analysis. For the quantitative section, I collected primary data on students’ attainment, demographics and school contexts, to which I applied econometric methods to see whether the intervention has had a positive effect on the attainment of students involved. For the qualitative side, I interviewed and surveyed the stakeholders in the project: teachers, students, parents, school management, about their impressions of the programme.
  • I interviewed two teachers in depth and produced two case studies that linked their experiences to theories of women’s empowerment, financial inclusion and pedagogical methods.
  • Capacity-building of Tata Communications’ partner NGO: I developed a system of evaluating and monitoring teachers’ progress and whole-school progress for the NGO to use
  • Capacity-building of teachers: I observed lessons and gave feedback; I conducted a training session for all the teachers in the programme, sharing best practices from my own experience as a teacher in the UK.

For the employability project, I visited the training centres and interviewed candidates on the different courses about their experiences and their suggestions for improvements to the programme.

What skills and knowledge did you use?

I used econometrics skills from my master’s course to help me assess the effect of the education programme, as well as set up indicators for the NGO to use in the future to track the programme’s impact. My previous professional experience as a teacher was really useful - it meant that I could give advice to the teachers and NGO about how their lessons or their programme could be improved. It was useful to be able to offer this kind of concrete help immediately and add value to the programme, as it helped me build good relationships with the teachers and the NGO from the start. Interpersonal skills were very important, as I was meeting people and talking to them (often with quite a language barrier) all the time. I also drew on previous experiences of working in development and social research to design my surveys and write up my findings.

What did you enjoy most?

I loved being in Mumbai, and travelling all over the city as part of my projects so that I saw many things that tourists would miss. I felt by the end that I had gotten to understand this exciting and diverse city. I also really enjoyed going into the schools – I went so often that I got to know the teachers and several students very well. The food was also delicious!

What did you find most challenging?

The language barrier was a challenge, as even though I made an effort to learn some Hindi and Marathi, I was never able to do more than a little conversation to break the ice. This meant that I had to rely on teachers or staff at the NGO to help me translate and conduct interviews and surveys, which was often a burden on top of their regular work, so managing that was also a challenge at times. The paucity and poor quality of the data available in schools was another huge challenge. This hadn’t been made clear to me at the beginning (better data was promised) and I didn’t realize the scale the problem of until I was well into my study, which meant a lot of extra work for me and the NGO staff. We got there in the end but it was a push! Generally, I had to become accustomed to unexpected delays – because of the monsoon rains, because of a technical glitch or a communication issue – and re-plan accordingly.

What did you learn/how does the internship fit with your future career plans/helped you think about the future?

I hope to work in international development and social policy after my master’s, so this was a valuable opportunity for me to get more field experience and practice my econometrics and research skills. I also wanted to gain some experience of how the private sector approaches social issues; most of my experience to date has been in the public or third sector so the insight into corporate social responsibility was useful.

Ai Namiki in the officeAi Namiki

MSc Development Management

What was your project about?

  • Impact Assessment for Entrepreneurship Development Programme for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in Pune. (one month)
  • Needs Assessment for Healthcare Improvement Project in a Slum in Mumbai. (one month)

What did your project involve you doing?

  • My role was to conduct field interviews with different stakeholders and assess the impact the entrepreneurship development programme had on the beneficiaries in order to improve the project. To make the most of my ‘outsider perspective’, I tried to contact not only suggested stakeholders by the CSR team but some personally selected ones to unveil the real voices from the grassroots level.
  • My main role was to conduct two types of field research. The first involved individual interviews with perspective beneficiaries of the maternal care project from a slum community. The second was working in a focus group and discussing with young women how to meet their needs. Commuting to the slum allowed me to collect important baseline data that will be used to plan  future CSR projects by Tata Communications.

What skills and knowledge did you use?

In both projects, qualitative study was the main skill I utilised and developed. In particular, creating questionnaires and conducting interviews in the field were common requirements and the most useful skills I could make the most of throughout the programme. Fortunately, my colleagues helped me with the language barrier assisting me during interviews and discussions.

Ai Namiki in a slumWhat did you enjoy most?

One of the most enjoyable experiences was meeting inspiring people who have positively influenced my future. For example, my boss from the CSR team was a typical ‘career-oriented woman’ with over 10 year of professional experience in development which strongly interests me. After working with her for two months I now think of her as role model who I want to learn from and emulate.

What did you find most challenging?

The most challenging thing for me was to negotiate with the project stakeholders outside of the company. While the project seemed to be going well, I realised that through greater discussion with stakeholders we could have reduced misunderstanding and miscommunication. I suggested to have more frequent face-to face meetings to strengthen understanding of the project with the stakeholders. As a result, all the stakeholders agreed to do their best to improve the current project and they showed great commitment and satisfaction.

What did you learn/how does the internship fit with your future career plans/helped you think about the future?

This internship was a life-changing opportunity for me in terms of encouraging me to think carefully about my career path. Thanks to many suggestions from my colleagues, and ideas I gained from communities I visited throughout the programme, I decided to pursue my career in the social entrepreneurship field as a consultant. As a first career, I will start working for Deloitte Japan as a management consultant for the non-profit sector in developing countries from October. My precious two-month experience definitely helped me to attain my job in Japan. My long-term goal is to be back in India as a professional consultant to contribute to solving grassroots challenges entrepreneurs have in underprivileged communities.

Connor Vasey

Conor Vasey near public transportBSc Philosophy and Economics

What was your project about?

Providing a service to the TCSRD (the CSR arm of Tata Chemicals)

What did your project involve you doing?

  • Prepare process documentation: I had to document the entire process of every TCSRD program in a formal document covering technical, logistical and non-technical aspects of each one. This included documenting steps taken before the initiation of the project and also steps taken after its completion. It was also important to document the history of the project's development.
  • Tracking mechanism: I developed a tool by which the TCSRD could keep track of the impact and implementation of its projects. This had to be a practical measure because it was meant to be applicable across all programs and be used both monthly and annually.

In order to lay the foundations for this sort of work a lot of time was spent in the field following TCSRD activity. This involved observing how the projects were run, but also interviewing TCSRD and holding focus groups with members of the community to gauge their understanding of each initiative. In all, these processes, particularly in the first weeks, dominated my schedule with hours spent 'on the ground'. In addition to this, the tracking mechanism required long periods of focus group engagement with TCSRD staff and often lead to working beyond working hours.

What skills and knowledge did you use?

It was extremely useful to have a background in economics when developing the tracking mechanism; eventually a weighted index was produced with a replicable methodology. My own knowledge of developmental issues (from growing up in a developing country myself and also from my own previous research) played a key role in shaping the questions I posed and also in shaping the approach taken to said index. Finally, my understanding of research methods, although limited, proved extremely useful throughout.

What did you enjoy most?

I thoroughly enjoyed the time spent in the field with the agriculture projects (and the behind the scenes discussions that went with this). Personal ties with agriculture made it particularly engaging for me and, given that 60% of India's population is supported by agriculture as a source of income, it couldn't be more relevant to the development landscape here.

What did you find most challenging?

The biggest challenge I faced was the arrangement and coordination of interviews and focus groups. Many TCSRD staff have their own agendas and you have to work around these and language is a difficult barrier to overcome when engaging with the rural poor. Anyone coming to Babrala ought to brush up on their Hindi and be prepared for a great exercise in patience!

What did you learn/how does the internship fit with your future career plans/helped you think about the future?  

  • Overall this has been an incredibly enriching learning experience. I was required to engage in every project and consequently my knowledge of developmental issues and grassroot-approaches to dealing with them has expanded massively. My eyes were also opened to the disparity in what I know from my time in Africa and what matters here in India. Attitudes are different, desires are different and while many issues are the same, the means to tackle them are necessarily divergent.
  • Already well-aware that my passion lies in development work, the internship has only served to reinforce this. I have witnessed first-hand the huge variety of experiences work in development can offer you, and this pushes me to continue pursuit of my planned career (although I doubt India's charm will ever outweigh that of my home continent!).

 

Dayanna sitting on riverbankDayanna Rubalcava

MSc Public Administration and International Development

What was your project about?

I worked in Tata International Limited (TIL), a branch of the Tata Group that deals with exports and representing the company outside of India. My task was to assess TIL’s Affirmative Action Programme, branded as Utkarsh, and help them compile a Strategy document complete with a roadmap valid for the next three years. TIL is spread across more than 20 locations around the country and at least 6 have an Utkarsh programme.

What did your project involve you doing?

I conducted interviews with Senior Managers, the implementation team and the teachers and headmasters of the schools that TIL works with. I also took field visits to their training centres and schools. I analysed the implementation of Utkarsh, assessed if they were complying with their objectives and if the Senior Managers goals and the implementation team goals were aligned. For my work I travelled to different locations when possible and sometimes held conference calls as well.

What skills and knowledge did you use?

I used my previous knowledge on development projects to try to assess if their approach was good and complete. I also used the skills I obtained on my econometrics and development classes to create indicators that could be easy to track for the company once I left. I also used interpersonal skills when conducting the interviews. I learned a lot about business and business strategy as well.

What did you enjoy most?

I thoroughly enjoyed being in a different country outside of my comfort zone. I met wonderful people with who I still keep in touch. I discovered a little town near the place where I lived that become my favourite place in the world as well. Project wise, I was very happy and grateful with the engagement the Senior Managers showed my project and my results.

Dayanna Rubalcava with childrenWhat did you find most challenging?

The most challenging part was the language barrier; I would have loved to have done more interviews in the field without having to rely on a translator. It also took me a while to understand the Indian dynamics at a work place and how the notion of time is very different to my country and to the UK.

What did you learn/how does the internship fit with your future career plans/helped you think about the future?

Well, I had never worked in a development project that was carried out by the private sector. I had no idea if I would enjoy it or not. I did enjoy the time I spent their a lot and it gave a very good sense of how things work from the side of companies and corporations. I discovered that I definitely like the independence of an NGO but having secure funds for projects does make a difference.

Janani Ketheswaran

Janani Ketheswaran next to medical centreMSc Health Policy, Planning and Financing (Joint with LSE & LSHTM)

What was your project about?

My project involved assessing and analysing the operating theatres at TATA Medical Center Kolkata to understand areas for improvement.

What did your project involve you doing?

My role was to research and audit the current status of the patient’s timeline when having a surgical operation. I assessed each surgical specialty looking at different aspects of a patient’s journey including the arrival time in theatres, anaesthetic times and the start time of the first surgical case of the day. I assessed the use of The World Health Organisation’s Surgical Safety Checklist and whether operation notes were documented appropriately. In order to understand the processes fully, I had to work with nursing teams, surgeons and anaesthetists.

What skills and knowledge did you use?

Having a medical background and an interest in surgery I could use my existing knowledge of medicine and the working dynamics of a large operating theatre department to full effect. Furthermore, my skills from my MSc came in handy when providing evidence based recommendations to the hospital as these could be based on other hospital experiences and published papers.

What did you enjoy most?

I enjoyed using my existing skills in a different country and health system while being motivated to complete the project. The weekend trips we arranged were amazing experiences, travelling to Jaipur, Darjeeling and Varanasi created incredible memories of this Internship. Living in India was an experience I will never forget, the food and the generosity of people were also my highlights. Being invited to a Varanasi Boatman’s house for lunch to chat to his daughter about persisting with her education was an unforgettable highlight.

What did you find most challenging?

On a personal note, being away from home for two months was challenging and being a woman in India was tough. From being completely independent in the UK to being cautious on every journey was difficult too. The frustrating inequality was evident throughout India and it will be a challenge for future generations to tackle this. 

What did you learn/how does the internship fit with your future career plans/helped you think about the future?

I learnt a vast amount about Indian culture and the people whilst living there and visited 8 different cities. It is an incredible place, with a rich, diverse culture, history and immeasurable talent. The internship gave me an insight to working in a low/middle income country and the health problems it faces which is relevant to my masters degree.

Latoya Francis

Latoya Francis with childrenMSc Public Administration

What was your project about?

My final project centred around youth empowerment. This included evaluating a girls residential program to facilitating a one-day dream/entrepreneurship workshop.

What did your project involve you doing?

Overall my project involved:

  • Analysing and evaluating the Tata Steel Rural Development Society (TSRDS) Residential Camp Schools for Tribal girls who have never been schooled or have dropped out.
  • Planning and implementing an “Encouragement Fest” for the girls of 32 Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBV).
  • Preparing a proposal for a football intervention program for girls of the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBV) in Jamshedpur.
  • Analysing and evaluating the TSRDS Under 10 Football Camp.
  • Conducting Dream/Entrepreneurship Workshop at Tata Steel Technical Institute in Jamshedpur.

What skills and knowledge did you use?

The skills I used the most were analytical and interpersonal in nature. The projects I worked on involved documenting the programs, then conducting interviews with the various stakeholders, and then finally researching best practices to supplement what was already in place.

What did you enjoy most?

I enjoyed meeting new people throughout each project. Each individual had their reasons why they were dedicated to the programs and the community. It was a blessing to learn how they got involved and talk through their passions. My interaction with the girls from the Residential School was inspiring. These are girls who have had limited educational opportunities and hearing their dreams and aspirations was a breath of fresh air and served as motivation to ensure that I played my part in helping TSRDS provide the best educational opportunities possible.

What did you find most challenging?

The most challenging thing for me was the constant change of plans. Prior to this internship I thought myself to be a person that adapts easily and quickly enough, this notion of myself was quickly challenged. My eagerness to produce something of quality through the internship almost became a hindrance to fully enjoying the internship. Today I stand more aware of my true strengths and weaknesses and I am grateful for it.

What did you learn/how does the internship fit with your future career plans/helped you think about the future?

I learnt that some of the most beautiful experiences come when you just go with the flow. I am by no means saying that there are not times when one needs to go against the grain to get things done, I am saying that I learned not all wars need to be fought. There was a time when I felt there was no way I could get anything of worth done because of the circumstances that caused my project to change numerous times. However, when I let go of my preconceived agenda I was able to see a side of Jamshedpur and India I wouldn’t have seen if I had fought tooth and nail to stay on the path laid our for me at the beginning of the internship.

Overall, working with Tata Steel Rural Development Society has given me skills and experiences that will propel me into the area I desire to work in (Social Entrepreneurship). Experiencing first hand how the TATA Group have made it their priority to meet the needs of the communities they work in has further inspired me to embark on starting my own business with community in mind.

Maud Wendling

Maud Wendling giving speechMSc Environment and Development

What was your project about?

I carried out my project with TATA Chemicals Society for Rural Development  (TCSRD) – the CSR branch of the company TATA Chemicals. I was in charge of preparing a plan to develop a Skill Development Centre in Mithapur, a township in the Western state of Gujarat. The project consisted in identifying skills with high employability potential in the region so as to design a plan to develop a centre that would provide vocational training to the local youth.

What did your project involve you doing?

The concept of Skill Development was new to me so I first had to get an understanding of the broader context surrounding this initiative – government policy and guidelines, private sector’s role etc. Key components of the project involved conducting a feasibility study based on the needs of the community; presenting an overview of the current demand and supply for employment in the area; developing the administrative structure, the modules and processes, and working out how to adapt TCSRD’s governance structure to the setting up of the centre.

In practice, I went through articles and reports drafted by international organisations, consulting groups, research centres, academics etc. and carried out a benchmarking exercise to review what was being done in the partnering training institutes that I could visit. I also went on many fieldtrips, where I conducted interviews with teachers, sarpanch, farmers and a Member of the Legislative Assembly.

What skills and knowledge did you use?

I used planning, analytical and writing skills for the background research and report drafting. I also relied on CSR knowledge that I had acquired during my Masters course, which helped me contextualise my specific project within the broader strategy that usually underpins CSR. Background knowledge on primary research and qualitative methodology was useful for fieldtrips, even though practical experience ends up topping that knowledge. Interpersonal skills were probably the most useful as they made communication with TCSRD’ staff and local people easier, despite cultural and language barriers.

Maud Wendling working with goatsWhat did you enjoy most?

Exposure to local realities through fieldtrips was fascinating as it helped me understand the socio-cultural framework and power dynamics of the area, beyond the scope of my project. The fact that the internship involved a mix of office work and fieldwork meant that I could really experience how CSR is implemented in practice, which is what I was looking for, after a year that mainly expanded my theoretical knowledge in this field. The highlight of my experience was to get to share knowledge, exchange ideas and stories with young Indian graduates who had a lot to teach me about Indian culture, corporate practice, social issues and development, which indirectly helped me adapt a lot more quickly to the internship. 

What did you find most challenging?

It was difficult to get my head around what was exactly expected from my project (extent of it, priorities, how far the rest of the team had gone before I arrived), all the more because I was given an ambitious set of deliverables, which made me feel overwhelmed at first, and then confused later on, when I realised that some of them had already been completed before I arrived. The change in pace and having limited access to past data can be frustrating at the start, but it taught me to be patient, resourceful and proactive to find alternative ways of finding information. It also took me quite a while to understand the governance of the organisation and its functioning, as staff roles had recently been modified and new senior managers had joined. Because of these changes and the language barrier (Gujarati language being dominant), guidance on my project was not always straigthforward. Flexibility and autonomy was needed as last minute or unexpected rearrangements frequently occurred along the internship. Finally, time management to prepare for the two presentations and produce the report was a big challenge given the aforementioned difficulties and the short duration of the internship.

What did you learn/how does the internship fit with your future career plans/helped you think about the future?

I learnt a lot about CSR implementation on the grounds (its potential and limits), and was even given the opportunity to meet with the plant’s head of the supply chain, who was open to discuss ethical supply chain management with me at length, which is a field I was thinking of looking into in the future. Experiencing an emerging India that develops very rapidly opened my eyes to its future prospects and made me realise the extent to which its role in international relations will become more and more significant. But soft skills development was definitely the internship’s greatest benefit, as I learnt a lot about my strengths and weaknesses throughout the challenges I faced. I feel I developed an enterprising spirit after being so inspired by my colleagues’. Apart from the fact that the internship constituted a practical experience that will add value to my academic background, I was charmed by the rich diversity of the country and I am now considering looking for job opportunities that will link me back to it again.

Darcey Ball

BSc Social PolicyDarcey2

What was your project about?

My project involved scaling-up Okhai (a handicraft enterprise working with tribal artisans) from 350 employees to 10,000 over a five-year period. It also involved obtaining a beneficiary perspective to evaluate whether scaling up was in line with core objectives.

What did your project involve you doing?

Overall my project involved:

  • Carrying out a needs assessment for beneficiary members
  • Developing an informed training strategy in collaboration with the senior management
  • Conducting market research in Ahmedabad to identify methods used by other handicraft companies to increase sales productivity
  • Identifying inefficiencies within the production process and coming up with creative solutions for these problems e.g. an online tracking system to pinpoint and address production lags

What skills and knowledge did you use?

The main skills I used during my project were interpersonal skills and project management. Creativity and innovation were also essential to come up with new ideas and approaches to the task. Presenting my interim and final project proposals developed my public speaking skills. I also developed expertise in marketing strategy through the work I was doing on the project.

What did you enjoy most?

DarceyThere are a number of highlights from my trip relating to both my project and also the cultural exchange aspect of the Tata ISES programme. Moments that stand out for me include dancing the Garba, a traditional Hindu dance, with Laxmi-ben Ramiben, Lacku-ben and Bhurmi as well as the Rabari tribal women and my colleagues. I loved feeling completely absorbed in my project as well as playing a part in preserving the almost-extinct and unique hand embroidery that has transcended generations of Rabari families. There was also the whole experience of ‘going native’ - learning how to speak like a Gujarati, how to dress like a Gujarati, how to cook like a Gujarati, how to eat like a Gujarati etc (sitting cross legged on the floor and using your hands!) and overall spending time with extra-ordinary people.

What did you find most challenging?

I found the pace of getting things done quite a challenge. Often I would have an idea but it would be so hard to push. It required me to take initiative and approach people from a different angle. Also, the food.  I had a tough initiation to Indian cuisine and was very ill for the first two weeks.

What did you learn/how does the internship fit with your future career plans/helped you think about the future?

Prior to TISES, I felt pressured to enter the financial sector or management consultancy and felt judged for, otherwise, not fitting the ‘LSE mould’.  However, the internship has given me tremendous confidence to follow my passion and not my peers and has helped me realize my potential as a woman in business. In addition, it has redefined my idea of what success is; excelling in an area that you genuinely care about. For me, it will be about working in a company that shares my values or perhaps starting up my own social enterprise.  

Jennifer Steeves

MSc Environmental Policy and Regulation

What was your project about?

My project, for Tata Teleservices in Navi Mumbai, was on climate change triggers in the Indian telecommunications environment. The idea was to analyse the global regulatory environment for the telecom industry, with respect to climate change, and to compare with Indian regulation. Furthermore, I examined carbon abatement targets and best practices in leading telecom companies across the world and in India.

What did your project involve you doing?

My project was essentially a benchmarking exercise of global regulation and corporate best practice in carbon-saving initiatives in the telecommunications industry. This required online research into various national government policies and analysis of companies’ sustainability reports. I also incorporated my MSc dissertation work into my project, and interviewed key senior executives on their perceptions of climate change risks and the way these were being addressed (or not) within corporate strategy.

Jennifer-SteevesWhat skills and knowledge did you use?

I used my research, analysis and writing skills in developing new knowledge for the company, and in developing an in-depth understanding of a previously unfamiliar industry, telecom. My background in environmental policy, especially climate change, helped me to bring an informed perspective to the project. Furthermore, my previous experience working in a corporate setting helped me to understand business realities and to thrive in an office environment.

What did you enjoy most?

I enjoyed my interactions with senior managers while conducting in-depth interviews on their views on climate change. These conversations helped me to understand the tension between environmental and social concerns and the realities of the business world. From a non-work perspective, I really enjoyed the social interactions I had with various colleagues, who helped me discover the amazing history, culture, and food of India.

What did you find most challenging?

The areas where my project and guesthouse were based were rather industrial, rapidly developing suburbs of Mumbai, and there was little to do outside of work hours. I felt a bit isolated where I was staying. However, I did take advantage of certain weekends to travel and meet friends.

What did you learn/how does the internship fit with your future career plans/helped you think about the future?

My internship experience, which directly linked to my dissertation, was helpful in finding my current role as a researcher for a climate change consultancy. I believe that my experience with Tata, learning about the intersection of climate change and business strategy, gave me practical insights that complemented my MSc course and gave me a competitive edge in launching my career.   

Daphne Giachero

BA Social Anthropology

What was your project about?

Initially, my project was supposed to revolve around the creation of an IT system which would track the beneficiaries of Tata Steel’s Family Initiative Foundation’s (TSFIF) health services. In fact, the current tracking system is manual, meaning that the details of beneficiaries are recorded on paper and that the TSFIF office is full of files. This makes it difficult for TSFIF staff to monitor the performance of their many rural and urban clinics and the status of beneficiaries. As soon as I met my project supervisor I was told that my project did not necessarily have to focus on the tracking system and that I could follow my interests. Hence, I decided to work on a series of impact assessments of the family planning and TB treatment programmes and services offered by TSFIF to the community. In the middle of my project I had the honour of being invited to lunch by the Vice President of Tata Steel Corporate Services who, being interested in my background in anthropology, encouraged me to start a further project: the impact assessment of a project run by the Tribal Cultural Society which enrols children from “Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups” into schools of high-standards.

Daphne-GiacheroWhat did your project involve you doing?

In order to assess the impact of these three projects, I went on many field trips to schools as well as rural and urban clinics to see how they were implemented on the ground. When visiting clinics I would interview doctors, paramedical staff, beneficiaries and motivators (people living in villages or slums who help TSFIF spread awareness). In addition, I analysed the cards, reports and files of each of the clinics in order to assess their performance. Instead, when visiting schools I would interview the school principal, teachers, care-takers, staff working on the project and, of course, I would interact with the students. Towards the end of the project I wrote a detailed report outlining my research methods, findings, observations and recommendations. Although I did not design an IT tracking system as initially planned, the issue of tracking beneficiaries was central to my research, in fact, clinics could significantly improve their performance if staff were able to track down patients in a more effective way so that they may be motivated to visit, get required check-ups (e.g. pregnancy, vaccinations, contraception) and recommence treatment if they drop-out (e.g. TB treatment).

What skills and knowledge did you use?

I benefitted from having taken an anthropological course on India which covered the country’s historical, economic, political, social and cultural realities – it enabled me to quickly adapt to my surroundings and to relate to the people around me, whether these be highly educated managers I met in the office, women in self-help groups or tribal school children! I also valued the many readings I did for a half unit on development last year! Finally, I used the research skills I have acquired by participating in LSE Groups and by conducting my own anthropological research project as required by my degree. Generally speaking, it is important to be sensitive and attentive to cultural differences, to be flexible and to be highly motivated.

What did you enjoy most?

I enjoyed going to field trips to the rural areas the most. I have had the opportunity to see all kinds of activities on the ground: women’s literacy classes, classes for drop-out school girls, permanent contraception operations (i.e. sterilization) in rural clinics, the Annual Tribal Cultural Show, street performances to spread awareness about health matters, and much more. I was happy to notice that Tata Steel enjoys the trust and respect of the local community thanks to the dedication of its CSR employees as well as the local motivators. Needless to say, I enjoyed the hospitality and warmth of everyone I met – before leaving to India I knew I would meet many friendly people but I did not expect to be “adopted” by an Indian family (the people in the second picture)!

What did you find most challenging?

I found it extremely frustrating not to be able to directly communicate with ordinary people both on a personal level as it would have been so interesting (and less awkward!) to speak to them for longer and in more depth, as well as on a professional level as it was often difficult for me to find someone who would act as a translator for me on fieldtrips.

What did you learn/how does the internship fit with your future career plans/helped you think about the future?

Through this internship I now have a much greater understanding of how social/development projects are conceptualised, planned and implemented and of some of the main challenges that may be faced in the process. Thanks to the experiences, exposure and expertise gained as a Tata ISES I now feel much more prepared to work for the community organisations, development agencies, social enterprises, etc. that I am currently applying to.

Neil O’Neill

Neil-ONeillBSc Economic History

What was your project about?

My project concerned the use of IT-based tools for post-training tracking of beneficiaries who had received vocational training through partner organisations of Tata Steel. Tata Steel had limited information on the whereabouts of beneficiaries after they had gone through training, so it was difficult for them to decide on how to best allocate resources for future investment. The idea was that through a tracking system, Tata Steel could gain the necessary feedback to improve the processes of vocational training programmes.

What did your project involve you doing?

 The project involved site inspections of the various vocational training courses that Tata Steel provided for beneficiaries. During site inspections, I would conduct interviews with senior managers, engage with beneficiaries and find out what challenges they were facing which needed to be addressed. In addition to this, the site inspections also gave me the opportunity to engage on a more informal level with beneficiaries which was extremely rewarding and also beneficial on their part as I could give them insights about British culture and University life.

My project also involved data analysis, using the data available from Tata Steel which was useful in understanding the context within which I was conducting my project.

What skills and knowledge did you use?

 Overall, I would say that it was a combination of soft and hard skills which I needed to use in India. In terms of soft skills, it was vital that I could motivate myself and maintain a positive attitude when things were slow or difficult. Leadership skills were also crucial to ensure that I maintained a solid grip on the project and in the use of my initiative in order to make the most of the opportunities presented to me. Interpersonal skills were also crucial in ensuring smooth relations with managers, as well as other colleagues in the company.

In terms of hard skills, I would say that the project required a range of analytical and management skills to ensure that I could bring logical and practical solutions to the problems I was trying to resolve.

What did you enjoy most?

 The most enjoyable aspect of the experience was the personal responsibility which the project provided. There were no strict boundaries at the beginning and therefore, it was up to me to make a framework with regards to how I would go about the project. This also meant that there was a lot of room for creative thought to go into the solutions I was providing.

In addition, the flexibility of the programme was another major perk as we were encouraged by Tata to make the most of the cultural experience in India. Tata allowed us to take extended weekend trips to explore and discover a completely new environment.

What did you find most challenging?

 The most challenging aspect of the internship was defining the parameters and deliverables of my project. In order to do this, it was crucial for me to spend the first two weeks of the project deciding what deliverables were in my capacity before deciding on them. Moreover, it was important to remain flexible with regards to the deliverables as the project developed.

What did you learn/how does the internship fit with your future career plans/helped you think about the future?

There were a number of transferable skills which I could obtain through the ISES programme. I believe that whatever industry or career I choose to go into, the experience is very impressive and displays leadership, initiative and drive. More than this, it also demonstrates a capacity to work flexibly and adaptively in unfamiliar environments with various challenges and obstacles.

Maria Lasa Aresti

mariaMaster of Public Administration in International Development

What was your project about?  My project involved building a Carbon-Neutral community in Positra, one of Mithapur nearby villages, which is located in the Jamnagar District, Gujarat 

What did your project involve you doing?

I had to do some research as well as conducting a total of 200 interviews within 100 rural households. In addition to this, I went to Bangalore for a week where I met the founder of the NGO SAMUHA. SAMUHA was one of the first organisations to implement the concept of Carbon-Neutral, four years ago. The purpose of our visit was to learn more about it as well as about the tools they had used in order to replicate their work in Positra. 

What skills and knowledge did you use? 

In order to make some progress in my project, I had to find, read and analyse several climate change-related reports before starting my work on the field. The purpose of this was to familiarise myself with this new world. Moreover, my interpersonal and communicating skills were the ones that I needed to use the most, particularly during interview time.

What did you enjoy most? 

I really liked sharing every day of my two-month internship with everyone in Mithapur, from the recently graduated chemical engineers to the villagers who I would frequently interact with. I enjoyed learning as much as I could about their culture and habits, as well as their language. Being adopted as a daughter by many of the people in Mithapur was another aspect that I really appreciated, as it made me feel at home. 

What did you find most challenging? maria-(1)

I mainly found three small challenges while doing my internship. The first, and most obvious one, the language. I had never learnt Gujarati before which made it a bit difficult at the beginning to communicate with people. I soon learnt the basic words and expressions that would allow me to interact with others. There are, however, several other ways to communicate with people than only words -we just need to find them. The fact that my project was a long-term investment plan was another challenge for me, as I could not see immediate results from my work. On the bright side, it made me think out of the box, coming up with new ideas. Finally, it took me a long time to understand how the agricultural sector works in Gujarat since I had never studied agriculture before. One thing I learnt is not to be afraid to ask any question to anyone, regardless of how simple we think the answer may be.

What did you learn/how does the internship fit with your future career plans/helped you think about the future?

Being a student of development, this internship made me deep-dive into a specific aspect of the field that I was not very aware of before: sustainable development. I am now someone who cares about the environmental issues and I believe that it is possible for a country to develop while preserving the environment and conserving the biodiversity.

Herbert Santo de Lima

MSc Environment and Development

What was your project about?

In my project at TATA TQMS (Total Quality Management Service) I was responsible for beginning the research about waste management for the biggest Tata Companies in the world, and build an initial plan for waste management. My role also was to identify some policy and best practices in waste management in the world that could be applied in some of the Tata Companies. 

HerbertWhat did your project involve you doing?

My team was based in Mumbai, and half of the time I was there with them (learning a lot and doing desk research). In the other half of the project I had to visit some Tata plants and offices, including the big Tata Motors where the Nano is made. During the visits I had to interview different members of the sustainability sectors of the companies and get information about waste management and disposal. I had to do a lot of contacts with sustainability managers of the companies, what was really nice and granted me some nice event invitations, including a gala night at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai, where I met Mr. Ratan Tata and many other seniors from Tata. 

What skills and knowledge did you use?

Since the interviews were with high skilled employers, I had to use a lot of my knowledge about environment and sustainability acquired at LSE. Beyond that the corporate environment I was insert made me recover to different skills during my desk research job also, having to adapt many of the scientific language to a practical use for managers. Personal skills are definitely necessary, but people always made the possible so I felt comfortable during the meetings. There were some moments that I could even share some of the knowledge I hold with the employers of different companies, and it was nice to feel that I was making part of the learning process of them, as I was learning with them. 

What did you enjoy most?

 I really enjoyed being part of a multinational company for the two months of internship. India by itself is a very diverse country, and since Tata has to work with the internal and external markets, the people working there have to acquire incredible social skills to differentiate the variety of business and countries they operate in. Being part of this incredibly diverse work environment was really amazing, and gave me the opportunity to make contact with different people with different skills. It was a very special way of knowing the Indian culture.

What did you find most challenging?

The biggest challenge, although, was also to work on this diversity. To adapt to a different environment never was a problem for me but since my project involved to interview and understand the problem of different companies in different countries, this was very hard. The time constraint is very curtail for the project, and my team believed in my capacity and always pushed me further to get the best result possible. All this I think is part of the experience, since I can look back now I realized I could make some difference. 

What did you learn/how does the internship fit with your future career plans/helped you think about the future?

The internship was crucial for me. I realized how I enjoy the corporate environment and how exciting working for sustainability can be. Of course it looks great in your CV, but the experience and the people I knew there are much more rewarding than anything. Now I am planning to apply for a career in other companies doing the same kind of job, and hopefully I will get it. I strongly recommend the TATA ISES internship to anyone who believes that a company can change people’s lives. The experience was amazing, and the support provided by LSE and TATA is unique. 

Bérengère Lavisse

berengereMSc Local Economic Development

What was your project about?

Assess the impact of the CSR activities of Tata Coffee Limited, particularly on the social and economic development of the targeted community or beneficiaries.

What did your project involve you doing?

Tata Coffee operates in different locations as their coffee/tea estates and factories are spread throughout Karnataka and Tamil Nadu mainly, with corporate office in Bangalore. Each location has different types of initiatives. I went to most of the locations and met with senior managers and managers in charge of the initiative. I sought to understand how they carry their initiative, what motivates them, how they decide which initiative to run, for whom beneficiaries and which local need or issue they try to tackle. Then I did a certain number of interviews with the different beneficiaries to understand the impact it has on them, what has changed, what may not work or satisfy them and so on. Therefore I met with parents of disabled children, recipients of scholarships, women taking part in Self Help Groups among others.

What skills and knowledge did you use?

I mostly used qualitative skills, to run interviews and analyse people’s answers and perceptions. I also used my theoretical knowledge of CSR, acquired through a course at the LSE. I think some theoretical references in CSR are definitely needed. You also need to be patient and flexible as I was always dependent on someone to translate for me. The person may not translate everything, may answer on the behalf of the interviewee, or stop translating sometimes. But I am very thankful, despite the fact that it can be a time-consuming and fastidious exercise, Tata has always been helpful. Doing my dissertation on this project meant that I also had to accept the fact that I would not be completely free, there were some persons that I would have liked to meet and it has not been possible. On the other hand, there are also some people that I met and would have probably not been able to on my own.

What did you enjoy most?

Doing the internship for and with Tata means that you can really be embedded (in the company, in the country…) so you get to see things, and meet people through an Indian lens and not as a tourist.

BerengereWhat did you find most challenging?

Two months can be quite long when you are in a country for the first time, you do not know in advance how you are going to react to that new environment. India has amazing things to show but there is also a dark side, with a lot of misery and some shocking aspects. It is not two months of holiday, I was moving a lot, meeting a lot of people, writing a lot, asking a lot of questions, it can be quite exhausting and you may also feel a bit lonely every now and then.

What did you learn/how does the internship fit with your future career plans/helped you think about the future?

I did this internship because I was interested in the role of business in development and wanted to write my dissertation on the topic. A lot of international development agencies advocate for business to contribute to development projects. After these two months I better understand how business can and cannot contribute to the building of some public goods. There are both potential and limitations. As I also want to work in a related field, it was a good opportunity to acquire a professional experience that may definitely help me in my job hunting. 

Karen Rodriguez

Karen headshot

MSc Social Policy and Development

What was your project about?

I was working for Tata Steel Global Wires (TSGW) in Tarapur. My main role was to identify volunteer opportunities for employees. In addition, I assessed the current state of CSR processes at TSGW and validated key communities and their needs. The objective of these initiatives was not only to support underprivileged children/ladies on health, education or any other area around Tarapur community, but also to strength the link between the company and the community in order to create sustainable community development projects.

What did your project involve you doing?

After getting myself familiar with Tarapur’s community and CSR activities at the company, I conducted interviews with heads of villages located nearby TSGW’s main plant in order to identify communities’ needs. I also established a group among the employees with which I identified the main areas of interest for volunteering in the company. Subsequently, taking into account the information collected in the previous steps, I contacted some training institutions and numerous NGOs in Tarapur and Mumbai (where some of the TSWG's offices are located) to see possible activities TSGW could get involved.

What skills and knowledge did you use?

My previous experience working with NGOs in my home country (Colombia) and my MSc in Social Policy and Development gave me a strong background about community development projects in which participation of all stakeholders is key.

Karen with groupWhat did you find most challenging?

However, it was really challenging to achieve participation and incorporate it in the CSR process of TSGW. Besides some few activities, there was not a real link between the community and the company that allows them to build sustainable projects. Although challenging, it ended up to be the most enjoyable activity of my internship. Interacting with the locals and establishing the links between the community and TSGW was the fact that allowed me to know India better, its people, and its rich culture. Working on the field was an invaluable experience.

What did you learn/how does the internship fit with your future career plans/helped you think about the future?

Overall, participating in the Tata International Social Entrepreneurship Scheme was a really rewarding experience. It gave me the chance to put into practice almost everything I learnt during my master at LSE. Also, it showed me a different perspective in development: not only the state, but also the private sector can play a key role in improving people’s quality of life. I will definitely take the lessons I learnt in India for my career in development back to my country.

VIEW: Karen's presentation.

Eric Coles

ericMaster of Public Administration (MPA 2011 - 2013) Public Policy and Management stream

What was your project about?

My project was to write an impact assessment and a replication plan for a childhood malnutrition treatment centre. A NGO affiliated with Tata recently built a childhood malnutrition treatment center in Jamshedpur and they wanted me to assess the impact of the centre on the local community through ten case studies. They were also considering expending the malnutrition treatment program by building a new centre in Mumbai so they also requested a replication plan.

What did your project involve you doing?

The impact assessment involved meeting and interviewing families who had children treated at the centre. I centred my assessment on ten case studies of such families. The project involved my riding out to their rural homes to interview them through a translator to collect information on their experiences. For the replication plan, I had to interview the managers and staff of the centre to observe their patient protocol and treatment plans.  

What skills and knowledge did you use?

My project required a broad range of skills and knowledge. I had to be able to analyse and evaluate data to find the quantifiable impact of the centre through patient log books. I used essay writing techniques developed through all of my writing classes for both reports. I also used skills developed in a management case study class to formulate individual case studies and intertwine them to create a comprehensive picture of the centre’s impact.  

What did you enjoy most?

I enjoyed my weekend trips the most of my experience. I was able to see several other Indian cities that were very exciting. The most illuminating aspect of the experience though, was being able to travel to rural areas and meet families living in situations completely alien to me.

What did you find most challenging?

I found the language barrier to be the most challenging part of the experience. Most of the people I worked with only spoke basic English and it was very difficult to have in-depth conversations. This seriously impeded my data gathering. They also found my US American accent very difficult to understand so I had to repeat many things I said.

What did you learn/how does the internship fit with your future career plans/helped you think about the future?

One of the major outcomes of the internship for me was I developed my masters dissertation topic. I’m writing my dissertation on childhood malnutrition in India. While my data set is a national census that does not relate to my experience, I find I understand many aspects of the problem not captured in the literature. For example, when I read about rural health clinics and their functions I know the likely state and capabilities of these clinics because I saw them. The internship created a comparative advantage in my knowledge of the problem of childhood malnutrition in India over the academic literature.

VIEW: Eric's report.

Cheryl Moh

cherylBSc International Relations

What was your project about? What did your project involve you doing? 

 My project had a corporate  focus to it, and it was centred on analysing the business costs of investing in green infrastructure for Tata Teleservices Ltd, New Delhi. I compared the capital and operating expenditures for conventional infrastructure, in relation to the costs and benefits of using environmentally friendly technology such as utilising solar energy and biomass options.

What skills and knowledge did you use?

I had to design a plan of action from scratch in meeting the objectives of my project, and thus practised project management skills and resourcefulness the most. I learnt to take ownership and greater initiative as well, as support at the workplace was always available if I asked proactively. I also built a basic numerical model, which was a great opportunity for me to be engaged quantitatively during the course of my project. 

What did you enjoy most?

I enjoyed planning and going for field trips to gather on-site data on Tata Teleservices’ current telecom cell-sites. Not only was this different from my usual workplace at the Delhi office, it also brought my project to life and allowed me to understand and engage with what I was researching and writing on. I also enjoyed meeting with villagers during these site visits and interacting with them personally.

What did you find most challenging?

The most challenging aspect of this experience was not the work, but perhaps adjusting to a completely different culture and society. It took some time for me to work my around the streets of Delhi, to enjoy the food and get used to its culture. But then again, company and people around were extremely supportive and friendly, and that made all the difference.

What did you learn/how does the internship fit with your future career plans/helped you think about the future?

This internship has directly given me the opportunity of being allocated a problem, analysing it and coming up with mitigating solutions in a competitive business setting. I believe this is in itself is valuable corporate experience. It has also helped me think about the purpose of enterprise and the value of corporate social responsibility in a successful business model.

VIEW: Cheryl's report.

Tobias Kruse

BSc Environmental Policy with Economics

tobiasWhat is your project title and who are you working for?

I was working for Tata Capital in Mumbai and Bangalore on a pilot project to reduce energy  consumption and carbon footprint for Tata Capital’s corporate offices.

What does your project involve you doing?

At first, I had to make myself familiar with where in Tata Capital’s office most energy is being consumed. Secondly, I had to find out how energy consumption and the carbon footprint can be reduced for their offices. Subsequently, I contacted numerous different Bangalore-based providers, that were specialised in the respective technologies. I contacted solar PV-providers, LED lighting experts, AC-companies, green roof/wall gardeners and experts for smart computer software, which reduces energy consumption from desktop computers. Tata Capital did however not only want to do a ‘green initiative’, but also wanted a profitable investment and was particularly interested in the ROIs of the respective projects. Thus, this project went beyond a normal CSR activity.

How has your degree been helpful?

My degree in BSc Environmental Policy with Economics has been helpful for having a good  background knowledge about the complexity of climate change and its linkage with development-related issues.

How does this internship fit with your future career plans?

I believe this internship was an excellent preparation for a career in consultancy since I had to meet different providers for ‘green’ products, had to evaluate, which one provided the best ROI for the company and eventually present my results to the management team.

tobiasI also believe that this internship was a good preparation for a career in research since I had to conduct my independent research in a different cultural environment about possible sustainability interventions and locate the various providers. Finally, I compiled a report for the management team, which explained the importance of climate change mitigation for India and compiled various suggestions to reduce Tata Capital’s energy consumption and carbon footprint.

VIEW: Tobias' report.

Elina Vaananen

BSc Environmental Policy

ElinaIn participating in the Tata International Social Entrepreneurship Scheme (Tata ISES), I worked at Tata Quality Management Services in Pune and Mumbai in a project on ‘The Necessity and Preparedness of Tata Companies to Adapt to Climate Change’. My project focused on three Tata Companies; Tata Chemicals, Tata Motors and Tata Power. After an initial literature review on international good adaptation practices, I conducted interviews with relevant stakeholders, including chief sustainability officers, enterprise risk management people as well as people working with product design and innovation. Essentially, I assessed the extent that existing risk management processes were capturing climate risk. In addition, I reviewed what business opportunities arising from climate change were being harnessed by the three companies.

I felt that my previous experience in research and interviewing was very helpful in the initial stages of project design. The project was very much my own; I had a lot of freedom in planning and conducting it and thus being comfortable with independent work was essential. Having studied a BSc in Environmental Policy, I was already familiar with the broad institutional frameworks underlying climate change as well as with the basics of the adaptation discourse. This familiarity helped in assimilating the relevant information quickly. The private sector perspective into adaptation was new to me: it was very interesting to approach the issue from a business point of view as opposed to the public or community viewpoint. The Indian context added its own flavour to adaptation. It was fascinating to gain an understanding of the strict regulatory oversight that the energy and fertiliser industries are subject to.

The Tata ISES experience was a hugely rewarding one. The internship reaffirmed my interest in environmental risk and supported my decision to undertake postgraduate studies in environmental law and economics at the University of Cambridge this autumn. Having learned so much and met the most wonderful people, I will certainly return to India, where so many innovative, environment-related initiatives are currently taking place.

VIEW: Elina's presentation.

Andreina Varady

Andreina VardyMasters in Public Administration

What was your project about?

At TATA STEEL Rural Development Society (TSRDS) in Jamshedpur, Jharkhand, I was assigned to ‘‘Focus Self-Help Groups (SHG) Program’’ with the purpose of conducting an impact assessment. Self-Help Groups (SHGs) are an alternative to institutional credit for the poor, which has emerged over the past decade in India as a result of a government scheme called ‘‘Swarnjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana’’ (SGSY). Under TSRDS Income Generation Unit, the Focus SHGs Program aims to increase the living standards of the local rural communities by improving the effectiveness and sustainability of the established SHGs. Specifically, TSRDS supervises thirty women SHGs with the objective of providing personalized assistance assuring their long-term performance improvement. The end goal of this program is to expand the benefits, such as training and monitoring, to more than the original thirty groups.

What did your project involve you doing?

My project involved producing an impact assessment on the Focus SHGs Program and developing recommendations based on the findings of this report. The program required collection of detailed data, standardization of indicators and data analysis with the goal of constructing practical recommendations. In the data collection stage, I designed surveys and distributed them to randomly selected SHGs stratified at the smallest administrative level, tailored to the Bengali-speaking and illiterate audience. In addition to the surveys, I coordinated focus groups and carried out interviews to collect information for the case studies requested by TSRDS. Aside from the analysis section, I was motivated to extend my report with the creation of practical tools for TSRDS. I designed a grading system for SHGs. This allowed TSRDS to move towards objective selection of Focus SHGs based on performance indicators rather than subjective feedback. Furthermore, this tool sought to provide a framework of desirable traits to the over 400 non-focus SHGs which wanted to joining TSRDS program. In addition, driven by the research finding that trainings were often ineffective, I was given the responsibility of designing the 2012 training modules based on SHGs needs and interests.

What skills and knowledge did you use?

The LSE MPA training in quantitative methods provided me with the fundamental technical knowledge to produce the data analysis section. Specifically, it stressed the importance of collecting information from a random sample of SHGs and the limitations of experimental-style data. My previous experience working in micro-financing at ACCION USA, a financial institution, granted me the familiarity with the process of entrepreneurship engaged by the women of the SHGs. Furthermore, literacy in financial performance indicators used in the microfinance sector allowed me construct the surveys and design the benchmark framework for SHGs. Finally, exposures to NGOs in Venezuela developed the skills and enthusiasm for bottom-up development, a strong driver for getting into the field and knowing more about the women, their SHGs, enterprises and aspirations.

Andreina VardyWhat did you find most challenging?

The main two challenges I recall are language barriers and limited resources. The SHGs I was working with lived in an area of the state where the main spoken language was Bengali. Translation was often difficult and required a great deal of effort and dedication from the TSRDS administrative and field team. The challenges arising from this difficulty motivated me to creatively design surveys that were easy to understand and fill in spite of communication barriers. Furthermore, learning some basic Bengali and cultural awareness, made me approachable to the women’s homes and villages, and as a result, granted me a unique insider’s knowledge on their enterprises and needs. The second challenge was working with limited resources. Definitely, this was aligned with the realities of the job in the development sector where resources are scarce and demands are high. This particular difficulty motivated me to be innovative and efficient with the available assets in order to produce the best quality report.

What did you learn/how does the internship fit with your future career plans/helped you think about the future?

The internship was, from the point of view of academics, a practical implementation of the tools we are taught at LSE. At the professional level, it was definitely a learning experience to work in a foreign country under a multinational Indian firm. Personally, it was an enriching and challenging exposure to a culture, country and its people. During my stay, I had the opportunity to travel around the North-Eastern part of the country, attend a traditional wedding, and visit the corners of Jharkhand where no Venezuelan has ever been. With respect to my career path and the contribution of this experience, I believe that it granted me an additional professional exposure in a foreign country and a new sector, rural development. Both, I believe are complements to my previous experiences and current graduate degree.

VIEW: Andreina’s report.

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Picture by kind permission of Florence de Sola