Paroma Wagle '13 (India)

May 15, 2015

In 2011, after working with a NGO in India applying System Dynamics Modeling for urban water and solid waste management related projects, I was certain I wanted to work in the environmental field. Having a Statistics bachelors degree (with Physics and Chemistry), I knew I needed a thorough grounding in all aspects of the field, and, thus MESPOM was an obvious choice. MESPOM helped me not only build on my natural science foundations, but also gain understanding and confidence in policy and management aspects. While the intensive MESPOM coursework covered different environment sectors and themes, the research for MESPOM thesis was an opportunity to build diverse capabilities and strengths.

While working on my MESPOM thesis in the Balaton region, I had a chance to test my belief in system dynamics modeling as a fantastic tool for democratic deliberations in a real life situation. But, like most students and young researchers, I faced serious resource and time constraints. This made it difficult to undertake a conventional participatory system dynamics modeling (PSDM) exercise. A PSDM exercise is critically important as it leads to higher quality of decisions, social learning, capability building, creation of platforms, buy-in of stakeholders, and opportunities for negotiations. This prompted me to develop a ‘Rapid Participatory System Dynamics Modeling’ protocol. This helped overcome resource and time constraints, without compromising on the rigor and quality of the model. I was invited to present my paper on this protocol at the 32nd International System Dynamics Conference. I must mention and thank my MESPOM advisor, Prof. Laszlo Pinter, who has been a continuous source of support, encouragement, and inspiration.

My MESPOM thesis made me realize the complexity of the intertwining ecological, economic, political, institutional, and social dimensions of environmental issues and their implications for sustainable development. It also prompted me to see water conflicts not only as part of environmental conflicts but even as broader political conflicts. Most importantly, the research transformed my concern for environmental disputes in a serious academic pursuit.

I joined the ‘Forum on Policy Dialogue on Water Conflicts in India’ as an intern after completion of MESPOM to learn more about the dynamics of water conflicts in my own country. The research during the internship provided exposure to the realities surrounding water conflicts in the developing world.

While working in the Balaton area and then with the Forum, I realized the need to have academic training in––both, substantive and methodological aspects of––social sciences. This was necessary in order to work effectively in the field of sustainable development and to understand the social and political dynamics of socio-ecological systems. With this in mind, I am currently pursuing the MRes Social Science Research Methods (International Development) Program at the University of East Anglia, UK. I am planning to focus on the institutional structures facilitating collaborative or deliberative processes for water conflict resolution.

Over the next five years, I will be pursuing a PhD in Planning, Policy, and Design at the University of California, Irvine, USA, where I hope to continue working on the themes of environmental conflict and sustainable development.

I have recently been notified that I am invited to attend the Balaton Group Meeting as a Donella Meadows Fellow. In our first week in MESPOM, the 2011-13 cohort had the opportunity to interact with the Balaton Group Members in Budapest. It was an inspiring experience for me, and to get an opportunity to be part of the meeting in August, will be quite amazing!

MESPOM has been one of the most enriching and fun experiences of my life, not just academically, but also personally. For me, the biggest impact of MESPOM on my life has been the lifelong friendships that I have been lucky to experience. My MESPOM, ESP (in CEU), and EMP (in IIIEE) classmates have been family to me since 2011. Living in Hungary, Greece, and Sweden also gave me ample opportunities to make friends outside the MESPOM family. I can happily claim that I have a home, a bed, and a warm hug waiting for me in almost every corner of the world.