Overseas Fieldwork

What is OFW ?

1. Objectives

The OFW Program, as part of the formal curriculum of GSID, intends to provide students with hands on experience of real development issues in a developing country. These experiences will help students seeking future careers in international development to obtain more practical insights to their theoretical orientation. The OFW also enables students to understand the importance of an interdisciplinary/comprehensive approach when tackling with practical development issues that often arise among stakeholders with conflicting interests. Such an approach is particularly important to make the development process fully participatory and sustainable in practice, and its importance can only be well learnt in the field. In our program, we normally select a small administrative unit in a developing country, where students can easily grasp issues and conduct a case study analysis.

Objectives of OFW are to provide students with opportunities for:
a) seeing and learning real development issues confronting many developing countries of today;
b) acquiring an interdisciplinary perspective through group work with students from different academic disciplines;
c) nurturing their insights and skills for coordinating among stakeholders with conflicting interests through a case study of a small area;
d) improving their communication skills through group work with people from diverse cultural and professional background; and
e) conducting field survey in English.

2. Brief History

During the first nine years, the OFW was conducted on a rotational basis in three countries, namely, Thailand, the Philippines, and Indonesia. Theses countries were chosen because they are in different stages of development processes and thus facing different types of development issues. The rotation method was preferred since repeated observation allows comparison of different development processes among the three countries. Moreover, GSID has an academic exchange agreement with a leading university in each of the three countries. Nevertheless, the rotation method had to be discontinued due to security problems seen in one of these countries. Since 2000, GSID has diversified locations for the OFW.

3. Program Content of OFW

■ Orientation
Students are given Information of the program during an elective OFW orientation usually held at the beginning of an academic year. The number of OFW participants is usually limited to 20, in consideration of pedagogical effect as well as logistic feasibility of the program. Only those highly motivated applicants with good communication skills are accepted as participants. Usually OFW participants are divided into 4 working groups on different thematic or site issues, and work with the academic guidance of a group advisor. The OFW consists of a preparatory seminar and an actual overseas fieldwork, each with 2 academic credits if successfully completed. Only those who have successfully completed the preparatory seminar are allowed to join the overseas fieldwork.

■ Preparatory seminar
In the preparatory seminar, a series of lectures is given by professors from inside and outside GSID including those from a tie-up university in the field, so as to give student participants a better understanding on current development issues of the country in question. During the seminar period, participants also study the socio-economic situation of the research site and design their own research. At the end of the seminar, each working group gives a presentation on its research design.

■ Overseas fieldwork
Although the timing of overseas fieldwork varies every year, up to now it has been held in either of the months of August, September, or October. The length of stay in the field is about 2 weeks in recent years. Participants carry out field surveys with guidance from group advisors from GSID and the tie-up university. Student interpreters from the tie-up university are also recruited whenever necessary. At the end of the survey period, research findings are fed back to the people concerned in a formal presentation meeting at the research site.

■ Report-writing
Participants write up a paper in English on their research findings. Depending on the program design of the year, this assignment is a group report or an individual paper. The final outputs are compiled in an ‘Overseas Fieldwork Report’ every year and distributed to all people involved in the program. Reports from recent years can be downloaded from the GSID website.