Sunday, March 15, 2009

Global-Development Training Program in the Works

Two years ago, a proposal was submitted to and rejected by the National Science Foundation's REUProgram (Research Experience for Undergraduates). The vision is not put to rest. An abbreviated proposal title is, International Community Development Research-Training. The requested support in the original proposal amounts to about $450,000 allocated over three summers including use of the Wheaton College Science Station in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The venue would host a ten-week "experience", primarily for highly-motivated natural-science undergraduates, primarily from four-year liberal arts institutions. Other disciplinary majors would be considered, if they demonstrated significant affinity for the vision. Students from backgrounds underrepresented in the sciences are also given some recruitment preference.

NSF rejection was not unexpected but unfortunate. The details of the training are many and to some academics, these appear to be too applied (that is, not enough "real" research). In its current form, the research-training is only slightly revised. The biggest change now is that the concept will probably be presented to private foundations for support instead of public sources of funding. In addition to undergraduates, graduate students will be potential participants. Instead of paying participants a $4000 stipend (an impressive aspect of REUs to recruit and compensate for summer's wages lost), there will probably be much less financial aid available. However, it would be highly desirable to keep the experience from being a significant burden for the less affluent.

Learn-practice and demonstrate is the mission objective. Program scheduling follows:

PHASE 1, week 1 - lectures in cross-cultural sensitivity/communication, project/research planning, basic instruction in use of GIS technology for data collection and interpretation;

PHASE 2, weeks 2 through 9 - module instruction and project work/research (participants are in two teams) for 4x2-week blocks. The four modules include *Water-resource exploration (field and geophysical methods) and provision (well drilling and water collection); *Sanitation Systems (use of natural materials and processes for purification, containment); *Building Materials (exploration and testing of natural materials for construction in diverse regions); *Village-scale Energy Systems (focusing on solar, wind, hydrodynamic, and biofuels sources tested with battery-delivery technologies). These four components were chosen for their broad significance in global context. Note that each module does require exercise of original "research" from conception to final demonstration and critique.

PHASE 3, week 10 - The last week features reports/demonstration of module projects. Uniquely important is that participants are able to convey any critical principles and effective methods learned to others in a simplified, practical fashion. This imprints the objective of Learn-practice and demonstrate so that the program participants may embody the role of TOT, the training of trainers. Ideally, this would become a working out of 2 Timothy2:2. The Christian NGO (non-governmental organization) Lifewater International, employs the TOT principle in training trainers in the Majority World to pass on the ability to drill for groundwater.
The graduates of the ten weeks will be certified as "Apprentice Practitioners" and represent a great resource for development organizations, Christian and otherwise.

The above is offered as a further hope for GLOBAL WHEATON. Your prayers are coveted. Your comments and ideas are likewise coveted. More information is available on the details. Ask and it shall be posted.
Thanks, Jeff G.

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