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Saswata Narayan Biswas, D. Phil

Professor and Dean at the Institute of Rural Management Anand, India

Short bio:

Saswata Narayan Biswas, D. Phil., is a Professor and Dean of Research, Consulting and Training (RCT) at the Institute of Rural Management, Anand (IRMA). He has over three decades of experience in teaching, research, executive training and consulting at IRMA. Over the last couple of decades, he has mainly worked on poverty, food security, maternal health, and sanitation in rural areas of India. He has consulted for international and national development organizations like UNICEF, USAID, NDDB, NABARD, etc. He has consulted and conducted training programmes in Australia, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. He has consulted various organizations in cooperative management, management of nonprofits, human resources development, etc., and trained over four thousand executives in different short-term management development programmes. Prof. Biswas has published about fifty articles in various journals and other publications. He is the chief editor of the International Journal of Rural Management (Sage Publications) and on the editorial boards of several journals in India and abroad. Prof. Biswas was a visiting faculty at the University of South Australia (Whyalla campus). He is a member of the Board of Governors of the Centre for Social Science, Surat. Presently, he serves on the Board of Studies (BoS) of several Universities in India. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the International Association of Applied Psychology (IAAP). He is the past president of the National Academy of Psychology (India).

Future of Psychology: Aligning Research and Intervention for Attainment of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)


The Sustainable Development Report 2023 suggests that the SDG outcomes gap is widening between the developed and developing world. Low-income countries are still struggling with the first six SDGs (SDGs 1-6), and attainment of the most basic of the goals by 2030 seems impossible. Development requires the adoption of new practices and behaviour. Our research in India over the last two decades suggests that structural changes alone are insufficient to meet these goals; they would require breaking cultural modes and acquiring new habits. Breaking the cycle of poverty and hunger and strengthening food security, health, water and sanitation, it is observed that cultural factors often create regional disparity in economic development. While examining rural micro-entrepreneurs, we found that the standard literature on entrepreneurship and its conceptualization is inadequate in defining rural micro-enterprises. Our subsequent study on micro-entrepreneurs revealed that success could be explained more by social capital and entrepreneurial cognitive structure and processes than by socio-economic variables. One major deterrent to adopting new behaviour is the perceived risks of adopting a new behaviour and leaving existing behaviour. In a study of the adoption of water purifiers among tribal populations in rural India, we found that message framing significantly impacted adoption behaviour. In a study in Northern India, we found that adopting safe motherhood practices depended on leveraging cultural codes, individual-level maternal self-efficacy, life satisfaction and facilitating conditions. We found that the intervention of psychologists and trained social workers resulted in the better adoption of safe motherhood practices. We conducted a series of studies on sanitation related to adopting toilets in India, where 70% of the rural population defecated in the open just a decade back. The nationwide study suggested that socio-cultural factors are as significant as economic factors in shaping sanitation behaviour. Culturally embedded concepts of cleanliness and pollution are often determined by the social-cultural context, rooted in historical events that have shaped traditional beliefs and ideas about space. Psychologists can strategically align the SDG implementation with appropriate behaviour change communication and intervention techniques.

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