This series tracks news and views from our ‘Evidence-Based Policy Research Methods’ (EPRM) course. Many participants work at the highest of levels, both nationally and internationally, including for other parts of the UN system. They come to Maastricht for this unique blended learning programme, covering three weeks in class and 10 weeks online. This time we speak with Nazar Abdulazeez, an NGO consultant who works in conflict areas in the Middle East. NB, apply for the next round of the EPRM programme by 15 December 2019.
You joined our 12-week EPRM course in spring 2019. What is your current role and why did you want to do a research programme alongside your job?
I work as a freelance consultant and the bulk of my career has focused on project evaluation, research and supporting humanitarian development organisations in designing projects and programmes. I chose this course because I thought it would address my needs and improve my performance, especially during commissioning assignments for NGOs working in conflict areas such as Iraq and Syria. Also, as a large part of my work is to evaluate research and projects, I needed a course that would help me update my knowledge on research methodologies, tools and strategies. On a personal level, it was also the right time to align my field work to my academic research.
I also appreciated how the programme has a wide range of specialisations that can be tailored to the needs of the participant. Personally, I was interested in more than one specialisation course and fortunately the material and lectures were available online. I was therefore able to study two courses: migration and social protection.
The programme requires you to join us here in Maastricht for three weeks, and the remainder is offered online. We know the latter can be a challenge, but you managed to pass all your courses with high grades in the first round. What is the secret of your success?
First of all, I applied my golden rule: “pick the course that you enjoy, as that will help you to perform better”. When I looked at the programme outline, I immediately realised that this was what I had been looking, for as most of the topics met my interests. Spending three weeks in Maastricht was an excellent opportunity to learn from experienced tutors and to meet researchers, PhD students and assistant professors. The decision to spend the first two weeks in Maastricht and then a further week after a couple of months was absolutely right. It was a challenge to go from being a practitioner to a student again, especially with all the study load. On the other hand, it was also an opportunity for networking, learning and interaction with professional tutors.
After my return, I tried to ensure a better balance between my day job and my study requirements. This meant cutting my usual workload to almost half, which in turn enabled me to study, to search and to learn from the online courses of the EPRM course and access academic resources via the online library. One of the options for the EPRM programme is to spread out the work, so I postponed one of the courses to the second term. This was a good decision for me, as I then had more time to focus and learn. What’s more, the courses and learning programme were directly linked to my profession and daily life, which of course made it more appealing to continue studying.
You work for various NGOs that focus on conflict and development in the Middle East. Your research focus within EPRM was the integration of migrants, particularly within Kurdish regions – a very topical subject! How has your EPRM research benefitted your work?
EPRM helped me to focus, create a vision and identify the most important issues that affect the life of people in my community. One of those issues is the integration of more than 250,000 Syrian migrants and refugees. As a practitioner, I conducted a number of research investigations in a bid to identify the immediate needs of refugees and ways to improve their lives. From another angle, EPRM enabled me to create a long-term positive vision for the whole community, instead of only focusing on the immediate needs of migrants.
EPRM provided me access to online resources such as articles and electronic books, to which I previously had no access. Also, EPRM courses enabled me to enhance my vision and learn from existing theories and research conducted by other scholars. During EPRM, I was privileged to meet with tutors and specialists in migration and in social inclusion research groups. During those meetings, I had the opportunity to discuss existing research and problems, to identify books and articles that I need to read, and to receive advice – which was really helpful when shaping my research proposal.
Your EPRM classmates were a very diverse group, with people from various parts of the world and focusing on a wide range of research topics. How did you benefit from the various qualities of your peers?
One of the successful parts of EPRM is having such a diverse group of participants with different work experiences and different professions. Indeed, it was a valuable opportunity to learn from each other by discussing our research proposals and their various inputs. In this way we were able to boost and make the most of our team spirit, and ultimately it helped us form a network of friends and teammates who share the same vision.
More information on the EPRM programme, application criteria and deadlines is available here.
- PhD Programme in Governance and Policy Analysis, Dual Career (GPAC²)
The opinions expressed here are the author’s own; they do not necessarily reflect the views of UNU.
UNU / H.Pijpers