If it was a normal year, in a few weeks time we would be boarding a plane to Nepal to conduct fieldwork for our research project. Around this time, we would be busy with travel preparations, visa applications and vaccinations, looking for accommodation and full of expectations. Instead: Online meetings, digitally conducted interviews, online team building. All very different from a normal postgraduate course year, right? Then again… Maybe not quite? Because what is „normal“ anyway?
For us as Team Nepal (Social cohesion, Peace and Local Elections in Nepal), the digital work and research life is starting to feel a bit familiar already. We try not to think of it as „abnormal“, as a worse alternative to actual fieldwork, or a consolation prize. Instead, we are currently experiencing a perhaps different, but nevertheless enriching, exciting and educational research phase. The “new normal” will not take away our motivation or enthusiaism for our research: We adjust, accomodate and simply look for new ways to find out how local elections influence peace and social cohesion in Nepal – even from afar. To this end, we have come up with different methods to diversify skills to work in the digital space: We kick-start the week with check-in call on Mondays and discuss current news from Nepal. There, the panoramic video background of snowtopped Himalayan mountains provides an almost realistic „on-site“ feeling. For content sessions, we use “Miro Board”, a digital pinboard with colourful post-its to share and structure our ideas. And of course we are especially grateful to our Nepalese partners who bring us a little closer to Nepal during our regular meetings. In a way, we have created our own little digital work bubble somewhere between Germany and Nepal. Our research team phase is therefore certainly different from the years before, but we think: Being different is exciting!