S4E2 - Intersections between Research and Activism

Media 14 Apr 2022

In this week’s episode we will be discussing the intersections between research and activism for social change. With our guests Vinodkumar Rao and Joseph Kimani, we will be seeking to understand how lessons from activist approaches can be applied within research and vice versa. We will also explore how power, participation and social justice fits within the wider research agenda when seeking to engage communities in informal settings.

Key points we hear from Kimani and Vinod include: 

  • How slum federations in India and Kenya lead data collection with support from NGOs and researchers so they can demand rights and ensure they have a ‘seat ‘at the decision-making table  
  • The role that researchers play within activist organisations to support knowledge generation, understand government policies and to decipher academic evidence so that communities can develop solutions or ask for resources from the state. 
  • The organic growth of ‘movement’ building – when one community takes action another will follow and have an example to build upon 
  • The importance of collecting data about slums, challenging government data, and producing evidence to ‘prove their existence, to prove their requirements and to prove the value that they bring to the city by inhabiting in the city.’ 
  • How dominance and power within community structures is considered and managed within activism to promote inclusion 

Joseph Kimani

Executive Director, Shack Dwellers International-Kenya (SDI-K)

Joseph is an experienced community organizer, with a Masters in Community Economic Development. He has worked with Civil Society Organizations for the past 18 years in areas including civic and political rights, peacebuilding, economic development, and governance. Currently working as the Executive Director for Shack Dwellers International Kenya (SDI Kenya). SDI Kenya is composed of young professionals who provide technical support to Kenya Slum Dwellers Federation- Muungano wa Wanavijiji. The organization promotes and facilitates Community-based participatory research tools used by Slum federations and community organizations to use their data in the co-production of solutions with city authorities. 

  1. https://pubs.iied.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/migrate/10884IIED.pdf 
  2. http://hummedia.manchester.ac.uk/institutes/gdi/publications/workingpapers/scaling-participation-horn-et-al.pdf 
  3. https://bulletin.ids.ac.uk/index.php/idsbo/article/view/3115 
  4. https://www.muungano.net/publicationssearch 

Vinodkumar Rao works within ‘The Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centers’ or SPARC, an NGO based in India working with grassroots networks of slum dwellers across cities. He has close working experience with the National Slum Dwellers Federation (NSDF) and Mahila Milan (‘women together’ in Hindi), two organisations of urban poor who negotiate for access to safe habitat and basic civic services, co-producing solutions with the state institutions. He is currently leading on the interdisciplinary action research project, ARISE, aimed at improving accountability and governance to produce health equity among marginalised urban people. 

This is a podcast in the series: Connecting Citizens to Science, which focuses on health research based on equitable partnerships between researchers and communities.