Bala Rangaraju

Baladevan (Bala) Rangaraju is the Director of Indus Information Initiatives, a boutique firm in Delhi specializing in social science field research, and a visiting researcher at the Newcastle University. He has an MA in Economics and Education from Columbia University Teachers College, and an LLB from Delhi University Faculty of Law. His research interests include school choice, educational accountability, and rule of law where he employs imaginative investigation and intervention designs to inform policy through new knowledge. His report with James Tooley and Pauline Dixon, The Private School Revolution in Bihar, is India’s first landscape study of the school ecosystem of a city and the first to employ spatial analysis to study school preferences. It secured a Templeton Freedom Award in 2012. He also won the Grand Prize at the inaugural global edition of Think Tank Shark Tank in 2014 for a pitch on employing mobile technology to improve police accountability. Bala also conceptualized and directed Niti Express, an innovative campaign to spread awareness on personal rights through nano tales that aired on radio in eight cities of India in 2016. He is widely quoted in the media on educational choice and property rights related issues.  

Bala founded the non-profit think tank India Institute in 2010 and the research firm Indus Information Initiatives in 2015. Both organizations have partnered with top experts and universities of the world for studies on a variety of topics including education, state capacity, labour market participation, property rights, energy use and urbanization in multiple languages across India. He will leverage his expertise in survey design and implementation to manage the household and GIS data collection for Empower. He also will collaborate with Pauline Dixon and Steve Humble on the education and health care research questions.  

Steve Humble

Dr Steve Humble MBE is a Senior Lecturer in International Development at Newcastle University. He gained a 1st Class Honours Degree in Mathematics from the University of Birmingham, a MA in Mathematics from the Open University and was awarded a Doctor of Philosophy from Newcastle University for his thesis around gifted children living in marginalised communities in Tanzania. He is known for his expertise in analysing data for large samples using advanced statistical techniques. His most recent book Quantitative Analysis of Questionnaires: Techniques to Explore Structures and Relationships published by Routledge provides an ideal textbook for those looking to improve statistical interpretation of data. He has published over 30 peer reviewed articles and six books. He has advised the British government around education and acted as a peer review assessor for GCRF ESRC. Steve was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s 2015 New Year’s Honours list for his contribution to education, is a Fellow of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications.

Steve is currently the Co-Investigator on grants totalling £1 million being carried out in India. He is one of our Co-Investigators focusing on the household surveys and quantitative data modelling. Steve is also funded by the British Academy on a project that is researching employment skills and empowerment for young women from rural and marginalised communities in Delhi. His other research includes WASH in schools in Sierra Leone, phonics in government schools in northern Nigeria, HIV stigma in Zimbabwe and coping strategies around COVID 19 in the UK and Asia.

See Steve’s Newcastle University staff profile here.

Karen Ross

Karen Ross PhD is Professor of Gender and Media at Newcastle University, UK. Her teaching and research are focused on issues of gender, media, politics, ageing and society. She has published numerous papers and books on these topics and her latest (edited) collection, the International Encyclopaedia of Gender, Media and Communication was published by Wiley Blackwell in 2020. She is currently working on several participatory projects including with care home residents and staff around life post-lockdown, with women who have experienced the menopause and women entrepreneurs in India.

Her involvement in Empower dovetails with other work she has undertaken on women and work in India, including the challenges of being women entrepreneurs. She will help develop a participatory framework within which the project team will collaborate with women in the research sites to narrate their experiences of work and life and she will work with the project’s filmmakers to produce some short documentary films which tell their stories.

See Karen’s Newcastle University staff profile here.

David Graham

David Graham is Professor of Ecosystems Engineering at Newcastle University, and performs applied and fundamental research in engineering, ecology, molecular microbiology, and public health. He obtained degrees in Civil Engineering at University of British Columbia in Canada and, after eight years in industry, obtained his PhD in Environmental Engineering from the University of Arizona. Graham was a professor at the University of Kansas for 12 years where he studied relationships between agrochemical use, and water, soil, and food quality, including the fate of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) bacteria and genes. He now works around the world on mitigating the spread infectious diseases, including projects in India, China, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Europe, and the Americas.  

Graham’s main role on Empower is to characterise the environmental quality of informal communities with different types of water, sanitation, and hygiene provision. Assessments will include air and water quality, especially relative to environmental pollutants and prevalence of infectious disease. Graham then will contribute to the development of sociotechnical strategies for improving health and well-being through improved environmental quality. Graham is a scientific advisor to the UK and US governments on environmental transmission of AMR and SARS-CoV-2 (the covid-19 virus), and also advises the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and World Health Organisation (WHO) on AMR and other health issues. Therefore, the influence of Empower should radiate around the world through UNEP and the WHO.   

See David’s Newcastle University staff profile here.

Pauline Dixon

We are happy to start a series of posts highlighting the Empower research team. We are starting with our Principal Investigator Pauline Dixon.

Pauline is Professor of International Development and Education at Newcastle University. She obtained a 1st Class Honours Degree from the Open University with a focus on Economics and was awarded a Doctor of Philosophy from Newcastle University in 2003, for her thesis looking at the regulations of schools operating within informal settlements in Hyderabad, India. Pauline is regarded as a leading global expert by academics and policy makers for her innovative research and engagement in three major areas: the extent and nature of schooling for the marginalised; learning interventions in schools working collaboratively with school stakeholders and communities; interdisciplinary work with a focus on the Sustainable Development Goals.  

Her research and engagement activities have culminated in three books and around 60 peer reviewed journal articles. She was awarded the 2013 Luminary Award in South Africa. She is the only women to have been awarded this honour. Pauline was called as an expert witness to provide written and aural evidence at the Palace of Westminster to the International Development Select Committee on the role of DFID funding of schools in developing country contexts. She acts as a reviewer for many journals as well as several charitable trusts and foundations, is a member of the ESRC Assessor Peer Review College, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. She also has advisory roles with USAID and Palladium.  

As our PI, Pauline will oversee the management and implementation of the various aspects on Empower. However, she will focus her expertise on looking at the schooling and health care elements as well as the governance structures that exist within each informal settlement. 

See her Newcastle University staff profile here.

Empower Project YouTube Channel

We would like to introduce you to the Empower Project YouTube Channel, just click here to visit and please remember to subscribe. So far we have a playlist around Women’s Empowerment, which includes short videos and the full seminar: The entrepreneurial woman in an uncertain world. This seminar was held today and includes real-world experience of three creative women who, in different ways and in different sectors, are walking an entrepreneurial road from whose footsteps other women can learn to develop and grow. The seminar was co-hosted by Professor Karen Ross, Co-PI for our Empowerment Project; the Women in Development Network (WiDeN), an initiative from Newcastle University (UK) Global Challenges Academy; and the Indian Institute of Mass Communication. Its content fits nicely with the objectives of the Empower Project.


Welcome to our project’s web platform. Here we will post information about the Identifying Best Practice for Empowerment through Entrepreneurial Freedom: A Project for the Marginalized in Informal Settlements in Delhi (Empower). Please explore the various pages to learn about the project, its funders, the research team, and the settlements we will work with to gather best practices around community solutions to overcome the absence of basic quality service (education and health) and infrastructure (sanitation, transportation, wastewater, and water) provisions.