The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) D-Lab recently released best practices in research. This innovative Lean Research Field Guide captures useful insights from around the world. COSA, as part of the working group that included Sustainable Food Lab and others, contributed a number of unique experiences to help researchers advance sustainability in the most effective manner.

COSA has long recognized that thoughtful approaches are necessary for surveying farmers and rural communities. This MIT D-Lab’s Lean Research learning community is promoting better research practices that place the farmer-participants at the center of a study’s design and implementation. Thoughtful, lean research not only benefits the people and communities being researched but also provides more useful information for projects or researchers that want to learn about sustainability.

“How we conduct research, monitoring and evaluation matters. Data collection is an intervention into the lives of research participants – an intervention that in itself can generate positive or negative outcomes. In addition, the power dynamics between researchers and those researched affect not only the participant’s experience, but also the outcomes of the research.”

—  Lean Research Field Guide: A rigorous, respectful, relevant, and right-sized alternative.

Other members of the working group include the Fletcher School at Tufts University, the William Davidson Institute, Rikolto, and Root Capital.