Nimesh Dhungana

Research student

Department of Methodology

About me

PhD Overview

Citizens as monitors and enforcers of humanitarian aid: the politics of social accountability in Nepal's earthquake recovery (working title)

In the recent years, accountability as a principle and practice has taken the international development community by storm. Particularly within the post-2015 development landscape, ‘making international aid accountable to communities’ is an agenda that has received increased global prominence. However, there is a significant dearth of knowledge as to what it means by accountability in the first place, and more importantly, what it takes for citizen actors and communities to hold the government and aid actors to account. Through an interdisciplinary perspective, my PhD research explores the varied ways in which the notion of citizen-centric accountability is constructed, conceptualised and executed in Nepal, which is reeling from a massive humanitarian crisis. Nepal serves as an ideal empirical setting for this analysis not only because of the ongoing efforts to introduce development and governance reforms, but also that the 2015 earthquake environment has injected a new life into the complex debates surrounding community participation, effectiveness and accountability of development/humanitarian aid.

In my recently completed empirical work in Nepal, I have primarily relied on ethnographic style of inquiry. I draw on multiple data sets, including participant observations of the various forms of ‘accountability mechanisms’ that crisis-affected communities participate in, together with in-depth interviews with civil society activists, public officials, NGO professionals, who are closely involved in producing, promoting and pursuing post-earthquake accountability goals. 

The empirical works of my PhD is divided into three distinct studies. First, it explores the meanings of accountability in the context of immediate aftermath of the 2015 Nepal earthquake. Second, through an in-depth analysis of a civil society-led campaign, I explore the ways in which post-earthquake accountability goals are produced, promoted and pursued in post-earthquake context. Third, I examine the contextual conditions that facilitate and promote the crisis-affected communities to hold the duty-bearers to account.


Dr. Flora Cornish; Dr. Alasdair Jones


MA, International Development and Social Change, Clark University, USA

MBA, Kathmandu University School of Management, Nepal

BCom (Honours), Shaheed Bhagat Singh College, University of Delhi, India

Fellowships and awards

  • Niti Foundation Fellowship, a leading policy research institute based in Nepal, to support field work in Nepal as part of the PhD research that examines information-communication based, community-driven monitoring of      humanitarian aid in post-earthquake Nepal (August 2015-October 2016).

  • LSE Scholarship to pursue PhD at the Department of Methodology, LSE. (January 2015-present)

  • Social Change Fellowship to pursue Masters in International Development and Social Change, Clark University, Worcester, MA. (August 2008-May 2010). 

Past experiences

Before starting his PhD, Nimesh was working as Research Manager at the Center on Health, Risk and Society based at the American University in Washington DC (December 2010-December 2014). He oversaw several multi-sited, multi-methods research projects that focus on the topic of Global Health in general and HIV/AIDS in particular. One of them was the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded mixed-methods study (Dr. Kim Blankenship, Principal Investigator) that examines the processes and impacts of Community Mobilization Intervention among Female Sex Workers in southern-India. Nimesh was also involved in an NIH funded US-based research project on race disparities in HIV as they relate to involvement in the criminal justice system.

While pursuing his graduate degree at Clark University (August 2008-May 2010), Nimesh was part of the Community Based Action Research Project aimed at addressing youth gang violence in Worcester, MA. He also served in the team of aids2031 project, a multidisciplinary HIV/AIDS project funded by UNAIDS, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, among others, aimed at examining key political, social, and economic “drivers” behind the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Nimesh started his professional career in the field of development management consulting in his home country, Nepal, and continues to hold interest in undertaking consultancy assignments.

Research and Professional Interests

Nimesh is an interdisciplinary development researcher with interests spanning areas of international development, interplay of disaster and development, community mobilisation, and social and political dimensions of accountability movement in the Global South. His interests also lies in critical analysis of the surge in global movement in monitoring and measurement of international aid, and the related topic of evidence-based development planning.

Nimesh mostly uses and advocates for a qualitative mode of inquiry. He firmly believes qualitative research methods hold a tremendous potential to generate a much needed understanding on the effectiveness and outcomes of development programmes, together with socio-political conditions that facilitate or constrain the delivery of such programmes. He also believes in theoretically-informed research that has the potential to influence policy and practice. Nimesh's research focuses in south-Asia, especially Nepal.

Select publications

  • Dhungana, N., Flora Cornish, Morten Skovdal, Gitau Mburu. “Four models of community-based monitoring: a review. A report prepared for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. 2016.

  • Dhungana, N., Kim M. Blankenship, Monica R. Biradavolu, Nehanda Tankasala, and Annie George. "No-One-Size-Fits-All: Addressing the Social and Structural Dimensions of Sex Worker Vulnerability to HIV Through Community Mobilization in Avahan." In: Kerrigan D., Barrington C. (eds) Structural Dynamics of HIV. Social Aspects of HIV, vol 4. Springer, Cham, 2018. pp. 67-96.

  • Biradavolu, M., Kim M. Blankenship, Annie George, Nimesh Dhungana.      “Unintended consequences of community based monitoring systems: Lessons      from an HIV prevention intervention for sex workers in southern India.”      World Development 67 (2015): 1-10.

  • Rimal, R., Adrienne Chung., Nimesh Dhungana. “Media as Educator, Media as Disruptor: Conceptualizing the Role of Social Context in Media Effects,” Journal of Communication (2015).

  • George, A., Kim M. Blankenship, Monica R. Biradavolu, Nimesh Dhungana,      and Nehanda Tankasala. "Sex workers in HIV prevention: From Social Change Agents to Peer Educators." Global public health 10, no. 1 (2015):28-40.

  • Dhungana, N. (2018). Revisiting Nepal’s year of elections: Less success than meets the eye? LSE’s south-Asia Center Blog.

  • Dhungana, N. (2015, June). Book review: Development and Public Health in the Himalaya: Reflections on Healing in Contemporary Nepal, by I. Harper, Routledge, 2014. Studies in Nepali History and Society, Vol.20 (1).

  • Biradavolu, M., Kim M. Blankenship, Asima Jena, and Nimesh Dhungana. "Structural stigma, sex work and HIV: contradictions and lessons learnt from a community-led structural intervention in southern India." J Epidemiol Community Health (2012): jech-2011.

Select academic presentations

  • Presentation entitled, Building voice, brokering redress?: A case of NGO-led accountability campaign in post-earthquake, as part of the panel ‘Knowledge Practices, Participation and Accountability in Disaster Governance’, the third North European Conference on Emergency and Disaster Studies (NEEDS3 conference), Amsterdam, Netherlands, March 23-25, 2018;

  • Presentation entitled, ‘Deepening social accountability in disaster context: The contribution and context of civil society-based social accountability in post-earthquake Nepal,’ the third Nepal Anthropology Conference, Kathmandu, Nepal, December 8-10, 2017;

  • Oral and poster presentation entitled, ‘Between monitoring and mobilising of citizen voice: Role of social accountability in post-earthquake Nepal,’ the 8th Conference of the International Society for Integrated Disaster Risk Management Reykjevik, Iceland, August 23-25, 2017. Awarded 7th position in the Young Scientists Session.

  • Presentation entitled, ‘Multiple Processes and Outcomes of Community Mobilization: A Case of Avahan’, the 2nd International Association for Social Sciences and Humanities for HIV Prevention Conference, Paris, July 7-10, 2013.

  • Presentation entitled, ‘Structural Vulnerability and HIV/AIDS among Undocumented Migrants in Nepal’ (with William Fisher), the Association of American Geographers Conference in Washington D.C, April 15, 2010.