Event ReportsPublished on May 19, 2008
A first of its kind in India, the first Observer Research Foundation-Delhi University summer workshop for undergraduate students on "India's Future Challenges" was organised at ORF Delhi campus between May 19, 2008 and June 4, 2008.
ORF-DU workshop brainstorms on India's future challenges

A first of its kind in India, the first Observer Research Foundation-Delhi University summer workshop for undergraduate students on “India’s Future Challenges” was organised at ORF Delhi campus between May 19, 2008 and June 4, 2008.

The workshop was attended by 20 undergraduate students selected by Delhi University from its various colleges for this purpose. The workshop was an outcome of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between ORF and DU to cooperate and collaborate on various academic fronts, including faculty exchange programmes, joint studies, workshops and conferences.

One of the important features of the MoU was the joint ORF-DU summer workshop for select undergraduate students of DU on public policy issues. The idea behind such a workshop is to expose a group of young students to specialised domains of knowledge and motivate them to pursue careers in public policy research and analysis.

This unique two-week summer workshop was inaugurated by Prof. Deepak Pental, Vice-Chancellor, Delhi University, who called upon the students to think creatively, come up with solutions to problems and set the pace for the politicians to follow. Prof. Pental underlined the importance of research and out-of-the-box thinking to find solutions to country’s problems. Calling on the undergraduates to become “thinking individuals”, Prof. Pental said, “The bureaucrats were not allowing intellectuals and academics to come up with solutions to the country’s problems.”

Mr. Vikram Sood, vice-president of ORF’s Centre for International Relations and a former chief of R&AW, welcomed the students and said that the workshop offered a unique opportunity for the think tank to interact with the future of the nation. Mr. Sood hoped that the workshop would help the participants to think beyond text books.

A creative challenge

Making undergraduate students interested in intricate public policy issues was the real challenge in designing such a workshop. To make the workshop a real learning process, the format went beyond the traditional process of classroom lectures. Attempts were made to experiment with a range of teaching methodologies (lectures, focus group discussion, symposium, etc) and creative tools (screening of movies and documentaries followed by discussion and analysis and clippings of different events).

The faculty members were encouraged to innovate in teaching methods and classroom situations. The students worked on group projects for two-week to learn the basics of project writing, presentation skills, team dynamics and communication.

In order to ensure that groups maximised their learning, they were put under mentors to guide them in their learning and project preparation. The students were allowed access to library and internet facilities.

The issues covered in two weeks ranged from strategic and foreign policy issues, such as India and the World, neighbourhood, terrorism, internal security threats, to more pressing challenges like climate change, energy and environment, Naxalism, affirmative action, intellectual property rights and health issues.

The faculty members were largely drawn from ORF, though in a couple of cases some of the area experts (who are linked to ORF’s projects) were invited to speak to the students. The students had the rare opportunity to listen and interact with seasoned diplomats like Ambassador Dilip Lahiri, former Chief of the Army Staff Gen. V.P. Malik, former Chief of R&AW, Vikram Sood, veteran journalist Saeed Naqvi and known academics like Prof. Rakesh Basant, Prof. K.V. Kesavan and Prof. Satyajit Rath.

The workshop ended with a workshop summary report read by Mr. Vivek Sengupta, CEO, ORF promising to improve the workshop format further and offer select students internship with ORF. Mr. Lalit Bhasin, eminent lawyer and ORF Trustee, delivered the valedictory address and handed out certificates to the participants.

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