FSD Research Internships allow participants to engage with FSD community partners in researching local issues and developing potential solutions. With community-based participatory research, the research question is defined and findings are analyzed together with the community. The goal is knowledge creation which serves to inform community action. Research Internships have a strong emphasis on community-based participatory research in order to ensure the researchers work side by side with community members.
What is Community-Based Participatory Research?
Community-based participatory research (CBPR) is a framework or approach for conducting research that is characterized by the relationships between the communities and researchers. This type of research is collaborative and requires partnership development, cooperation, negotiation, flexibility, and commitment to addressing local issues. CBPR works to accomplish objectives and development through empowerment and ownership.
All FSD Research Internships begin months before an intern's arrival. FSD site teams work with our community partners to help them identify research priorities and develop a community-based research proposal. Research interns can apply to conduct research one of these research proposals alongside one of our community partners who have agreed to host interns. Upon acceptance to the internship program, research interns are encouraged to conduct background research about the issue they will be investigating in-country as well as study participatory research methods that might be useful.
When interns arrive in the field, FSD local site teams will lead an in-country orientation, providing each intern with invaluable guidance and insight that will help them throughout their program. Orientation is a blend of theoretical topics such as FSD’s asset-based community development model and community-based research and day-to-day details such as how to navigate the local transit system, safety, and security. Through the orientation process, interns are introduced to the people who will be their support network while they are in country: FSD staff, their research supervisors, host organizations, host families, and other interns serving in the area.
After orientation, you will begin your research with your community organization. The intern and the host organization will develop a workplan for collecting types of data that will provide the organization with insightful, actionable information about community sentiment, behaviors, preferences, challenges, opportunities and resources. Community based research helps to generate knowledge drawn directly from community interactions. This new knowledge will help community-based organizations better serve the communities and interact in a more inclusive manner. Interns may continue existing research, evaluation projects, or work with their organization to seek answer to a new question that will assist them improve their community work.
Research internships are a minimum of nine weeks or as long as a full year. However, the more time a participant is able to commit to a project—planning an innovative research project, conducting careful data gathering, and analyzing their results alongside scholarly work and community input—the more effective it can be. Many community-based research projects require multiple rounds of data collection--each building on and deepening understanding of what was learned in an earlier round. Interns often find it challenging to complete multiple rounds of data collection and analysis in 9 weeks. Therefore we recommend spending at least 12 weeks in community, if you can, to allow time for your research results to be analyzed and reflected upon in the community.
Each research project has its own flow and timeline. Because the goal of the research is to create actionable knowledge for the community to use, flexibility is important. Most research interns will have spent some time brainstorming and reading up about the work they will do and the research topic before arriving in country. This is good preparation; however, it is important to be prepared to adapt the focus of the research to the present interests and needs of the community--which may have shifted in the months elapsed between application and arrival on site. Therefore, during the first few weeks of their program, interns will inevitably need adjust their plans to the local context and current reality. After finalizing a central research question, a workplan, and a timeline, volunteers coordinate with their organizations, FSD, and other volunteers to gather invested community members, tools, subject experts, local library and archival resources, and whatever else is needed to make their project a success. Ultimately, the aim of the project is to collect useful information and then return it to the community and the organization. In the last phase of the internship, the intern works to distribute her or his findings or make recommendations based on community input.
LOCATIONS AND FOCUS AREAS
FSD has sites in six countries: Argentina, Bolivia, India, Kenya, Nicaragua, and Uganda. Each location is unique in its culture, history, and sustainable development emphases. Our partners across all our sites are committed to strengthening their local communities, and we support them in accomplishing their unique missions. Our site teams at each site actively build relationships with host families and community partners to facilitate safe, culturally immersive, and developmentally impactful programs.
All FSD program sites work with community development organizations engaged in work impacting education, environmental sustainability, financial inclusion, gender equity, green energy, health, human rights, sustainable livelihoods, and water & sanitation.During the application process, you will be able to read through specific research positions and find matches to your skills and interest area.
INTERNSHIP PROGRAM DETAILS
Each FSD site team is comprised of a Program Director and at least one Program Coordinator. FSD’s Program Directors are regional experts in the field of community development, which makes them a great resource for research interns as they develop and implement their research. Each Program Director develops and maintains FSD's relationships with the community development organizations and families who will host interns, and is involved in developing--together with the community development organizations--the Community-Based Research opportunities. Program Coordinators provide extra support to FSD's interns, host families, and community organizations. While research interns are in the field, Program Coordinators serve as a bridge to the local culture and language; they also function as a lifeline when culture shock inevitably sets in, and are available to advise research interns as they develop their work plans.
Staying with a host family links FSD’s program participants to the local culture and community. All of our hosts have a desire to receive international volunteers and help them integrate with their family. Living conditions are generally “middle class” by local standards. This can be a drastic change from what many volunteers are used to, but every family meets FSD’s standards for cleanliness and safety. Past volunteers have consistently noted the host family experience as one of the highlights of their time abroad, and many keep in contact long after their program ends.
FSD works with more than 200 community development organizations across our sites. They are locally-run organizations with strong connections to the community. We call them host organizations because they will host your internship, but their main focus is to serve their community. Your research will serve that mission. Each research intern has a direct supervisor at his/her host organization, responsible for working with the intern to ensure that the research progresses in a way that is effective, appropriate, and engaged with the organization and the local community.
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT TRAINING:
Through the Community-Based Research Internship program, participants gain valuable training in international sustainable development. During orientation, the FSD site team walks participants through our asset-based community development model and discusses what it means in the local context. Then, with their host organization, participants undertake close study of a particular community issue and potential solutions, including both quantitative and qualitative data collection. Interns conduct research while immersed in the local community, learning from their host organization and community members. Throughout the course of the internship, site teams conduct regular check-ins with the organizations and participants, and help troubleshoot any problems that arise.
Proposal writing is a key component of our Intern Abroad program. In addition to the initial project seed grant, FSD offers a small competitive grant fund for each session for project enhancements. If Research Interns find it relevant to their work, they can submit grant proposals to the FSD headquarters through their local site team, explaining how extra funds would be used to boost the sustainable impact of their research. For volunteers interested in a career in the nonprofit world, this introduction to proposal writing is particularly useful.