Greetings from the Subcontinent

Greetings, AU students and people of the interweb. My name is Eric Saltzman and you will be accompanying me this summer to India, where I will be based in Chennai,  the country’s 5th largest city and the capital of Tamil Nadu, the southernmost state of India.  I’m happy to say that this internship actually represents the last 3 credits I need before I am officially done with my Masters degree in Public Communication.  I like to think I’m going out in style.

I am currently writing to you from Chennai, where I am at my second day at the office and my fourth day in-country. My internship will last about 10 weeks and it seems that I will be keeping pretty busy judging from the many interesting projects going on. I am working for a non-profit action research think tank called The Centre for Development Finance, which operates under the umbrella of The Institute for Financial Management & Research. IFMR consists of seven different research centers; together, these centers design and test appropriate financial products for the poor and for small businesses, evaluate public and private sector anti-poverty strategies, promote government transparency through better measurement of public goods outcomes and public expenditure processes, and partner with a wide array of public, private and non-governmental organizations to produce clear recommendations for policymakers and social entrepreneurs.

CDF, the center I work for, focuses on improving government systems’ and markets’ capacity to channel finance into sustainable, holistic development.  I will be working directly with a senior researcher who is interested in understanding the lowest income populations of rural India as consumers.  We will use ethnographic research in villages and market research to improve how NGOs, governments and private organizations reach this population with clean energy products, such as clean-burning cookstoves, solar lighting, water treatment and treadle pumps for irrigation.

The work I’ll be doing here represents an exciting opportunity to put into practice much of the research I conducted for my graduate thesis. My project addressed how culture, psychology and behavioral economics considerations can be harnessed to create new strategies to improve adoption of clean-burning cookstoves by low-income rural Indians.

I hope you will enjoy following my work this summer as I move from speaking with people in the village to meeting with organizations to investigate their strategies and back to the office to make sense of our findings.  Check back soon to find out the projects I’ll be working on this summer.

I will also be blogging on a more personal level about my experiences in Chennai and around India. If you’d like to take a closer look at this side of my summer, you can check out High on Chennai, which I will update as soon as I have a second to breathe.

Talk soon…