Johanna Wallin

Assistant Consultant Cross-Cutting, Oxford Policy Management Ltd

I chose ODID as I was keen to explore areas of development I had not yet had a chance to study, and the first year of the MPhil gave me a great opportunity to develop further understanding of economics and social anthropology. Mostly though, I chose ODID for the opportunity to conduct my own research, as I had been wanting to explore the topic of identity management and social cohesion in Kolkata’s Red Light Areas since an internship there a few years prior. The balance of new disciplines, and the getting to explore themes and areas I was passionate about was for me the perfect mix – and allowed me develop knowledge both in ‘breadth’ and ‘depth’.

An MPhil at ODID is challenging, because you have the opportunity to constantly push your boundaries. Moving from a discussion about conceptions of knowledge in social anthropology, to game theory in economics and onto Foucauldian theory of violence in core class you are constantly bombarded with views, theories and debates – and in the midst of it all you try to figure out what you really think about it all, and how you think it can be approached. I think this level of constant questioning of your own work, and of the work of others, from so many angles – and the chance to explore that with your fellow Mphil’ers and professors is what I valued the most about ODID.

In the summer following the MPhil I spent a few months as an external consultant for ECPAT International. I conducted a desk review on the sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism for South Asia, as part of ECPAT’s global study on the topic.

As an assistant consultant in OPM’s cross-cutting portfolio I work on projects across technical areas. Working at OPM is very varied and my responsibilities include research design, primary data collection, analysis, report writing and stakeholder engagement, etc. Since I started, my focus has been on qualitative and mixed methods, particularly with regards to gender and violence; but I have also had the opportunity to learn new technical areas whilst working on projects in for example education. The role also includes a lot of travel for fieldwork, and as such provides an immense flexibility both in tasks and space.

The work I do is constantly interdisciplinary, as is most development work, and ODID gave me a great foundation to think of issues from multiple angles. Additionally, the opportunity to design and independently conduct fieldwork – especially with the level of flexibility and reflexivity emphasised at ODID – gave me an invaluable opportunity to try new things, learning what works and what does not work, how complex research can be and how to make it all come together. This level of creativity that you get to apply during your MPhil field research and thesis, has made me think of research in a different light – not around what has been done, or what is normally done, but what can be done and how we can constantly grow and develop the way we use methods and theory together. 

The level of creativity that you get to apply during your MPhil field research and thesis has made me think of research in a different light.