Advancing "Lean Research" for Improved International Development

Published in MIT News on April 29, 2015, by Lauren McKown and Nancy Adams, D-Lab

To help alleviate poverty, representatives from MIT D-Lab and Tufts Fletcher School focus on respectful, human-centered research practices in global development.

When a student now at the Tufts University Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy traveled a few years ago to rural India on a research trip to interview farmers, she brought some serious baggage with her: a nearly 200-question survey that took up to five hours to conduct and complete.

“We were wasting hours of the farmers’ time,” she shared at last week’s Lean Research Lab, an event organized by MIT and Tufts. “It was fundamentally intrusive and disrespectful research.”

What this student described is exactly the kind of research that advocates at MIT, Tufts, and beyond would like the global development community to rethink and move away from. It’s why they founded the Lean Research initiative last spring.
Championed by faculty and researchers at MIT D-Lab, the Tufts Fletcher School, and the Feinstein International Center, also at Tufts, lean research is defined by the group as respectful, relevant, rigorous, and right-sized; taking a new approach to research conducted for international development...