During my time at the Rabat Social Studies Institute, I was assigned many different tasks, covering the spectrum from the mundane (putting contacts into a database) to the more intellectually stimulating (designing a survey experiment). In this blog post, I’ll delve a little deeper into the various projects I worked on at the RSSI.
To begin with the mundane—in my experience, most, if not all internships, consist of at least some work that is busy work, and just needs to be done. I certainly had some tasks like this at the RSSI, but they didn’t dominate my time there at all, but were rather things to accomplish in tasking that took up probably collectively a week of my seven weeks at the internship. One of my first projects was to find an online contact database, and input all the contacts into it. There was a stack of perhaps 500 business cards to go through, so this process was time consuming to say the least. However, there were some unexpected positive externalities—I had to categorize the contacts by category (e.g. minister, NGO worker, etc.) and as a result became very familiar with the different minister’s offices in Morocco, as well as some of the most prominent NGOs in the country. I also created a Facebook page for the RSSI, a relatively quick task that was a nice creative break.
The Rabat Social Studies Institute, to provide a bit of background, is a private think tank that explores different sociopolitical problems within Morocco, with the goal of bringing attention to issues and hopefully inspiring policy change. In the past, the RSSI has worked on projects such as “Jeunes, Marginalités et Violence au Maroc” (Youth, Marginalities, and Violence in Morocco), a project which examined the factors that lead Moroccan youth to be violent, and action which can be taken to prevent the violence. I spent a lot of time working on a project which will examine the effect social norms have on violence against women in Morocco. During my time at the RSSI, I participated heavily in the planning stage of this survey experiment, which involved a lot of reading articles (in both English and French) about survey experiment design, reaching out to other researchers to get advice, and strategizing with the research time. I really enjoyed this process, as although I’d read a fair amount about research design in the past, this was the first time I got to apply these skills and use them in practice. It was also amazing to be a part of this project, as it will be the first time that Moroccan researchers, not foreign researchers, carry out a survey experiment within Morocco.
I also helped out a bit with another project entitled “Vivre Ensemble,” or “Living Together.” This project examines relations within Morocco between Moroccans and sub-Saharan Africans. There is a history of discrimination toward sub-Saharan Africans in the country, and the RSSI hopes to bring to light some struggles that sub-Saharan Africans face in their everyday lives. I helped plan an iftar, or Ramadan break-fast meal, in the framework of this project. At the iftar, sub-Saharan African students cooked traditional meals from their country, and Moroccan students cooked traditional Moroccan meals, and therefore shared their food and culture with each other.
Overall, I feel like I really gained some invaluable real-world research experience. I was able to help out in a meaningful way with these projects, and now have a much better sense of how research institutes function ansd impact real change. I’m looking forward to applying my experience at the RSSI in future positions!