Mansi Kabra

Mansi Kabra

February 10th, 2020 4 min read

Why the Zine?

We are out now with the latest edition of our zine. But wondering why a research organization like us has a zine at all? Read on to find out. Click here to get one!

Back in 2017 when we told people we conduct Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs) to build evidence — an approach to establish causal impact of social programs considered by many to be the most rigorous — we didn’t turn many heads.

“RCTs?”

“Umm…Oh, Okay”

It was mostly because people didn’t know about RCTs. And it is difficult to appreciate that which you don’t know (not to say everyone who knows about or understands RCTs appreciates them).

With Abhijeet Banerjee and Esther Duflo winning the Nobel Prize in economics for spearheading RCTs, tides sure turned.

But the realization (which holds true to a degree even post-Nobel) at the time that the philosophy and logic that guides our research is incomprehensible to many, made us reflect.

We are a labor innovation lab on a mission to bring a paradigm shift in how business is done by showing the business case of investing in worker wellbeing programs. Our biggest challenge with respect to engaging businesses is to convert indifference to attention. If businesses don’t understand what we do and how we do it, will they be convinced of our results?

The path to creating impact shouldn’t be restricted to a language understood by a few.

We realized the need to explain the foundation of RCTs, how we design programs around it, what we learn, what “works” and everything in between, to everyone in between — businesses, consumers, interest groups, lobby groups, etc. There was a need to communicate academic research in a way that drew the attention of businesses and industry practitioners.

And so, what academia explained in well-structured vocabulary for a focused group, we dared to explain through well-structured analogies and storytelling, to a diverse group, taking research learnings far beyond academic papers.

Thus, in this humble attempt to make research more accessible and comprehensible, we came up with our first zine in 2018.

Using coffee and cats, we explained the relevance of the R in RCTs, through a comic titled “Why Randomize?.” It made some heads turn this time, fortunately not (just) of cats’.

There is an upside to analogies you see — they help in not getting overwhelmed at the novelty of new, complicated ideas, and encourage those on the sidelines to join the discussion.

Cats-high-on-coffee delivered as hoped, as did the rest of the content, replete with illustrations and designs, to expand our language of communication, and explain what text sometimes fell short of conveying. Chronicles of field stories, ups and downs of project implementation, the difficult task of convincing businesses of business gains in worker wellbeing programs, and the process of generating evidence — we tried to cover it all in one zine, hoping to deliver concise, consumable information at every flip of a page. While at it, we paid attention to preserve the rigor that research entails and maintain the details that add nuance to learnings.

Our efforts paid off.

Through conversations, engagement on social media, participation in webinars and especially feedback on the zine, we today see more people in our growing circle (including our partner organizations) have a good understanding now of what RCTs are, why randomization is important, and what scope this discipline holds for the development sector at large.

This pushed us to make zine-ing an annual tradition. A unique tradition in the realm of research organizations. But nonetheless, a tradition we hope the entire research community benefits from.

Our latest Zine edition 02 themed “Beyond Research” continues stories from the last zine and marks the beginning of some completely new ideas to transform the business-labor relation. It even has a sequel to the first comic, titled “Why So Many” that explains the need to work with sumptuously big sample sizes, continuing the intent to explain RCTs. In such ways, our zine attempts to deconstruct all questions hitherto unanswered and not completely understood by those outside the academic circle, so that the next time someone hears RCTs, they go like -

“RCTs!!”

“Let’s talk!”

If you’re still wondering why we have the zine? It’s because research learnings shouldn’t remain contained in academic papers but shared far and wide, and in forms that any curious person willing to learn can grasp.

Moreover, cats need a platform to speak. And when cats speak, we got to hear them out.

Meow.



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