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Reflecting on the Personal Project Experience

The Refugee Responsibility and Sustainability Index
By Gurkaran Goindi and Stepahn Anagnost
Reflecting on the Personal Project Experience

In April 2016, MYP student Gurkaran Goindi successfully completed his MYP Personal Project (PP) at the Lincoln Community School (LCS) in Accra Ghana. Gurkaran’s PP, developed within the Global Context of “Globalization and Sustainability,” focused on the creation of a humanitarian responsibility index, which he calls “Refugee Responsibility and Sustainability Index” (RRSI). Gurkaran and his PP Supervisor, Stephan Anagnost (Mr. A), discuss and reflect on the PP process in the form of an informal “viva voce.”
Gurkaran: “Extraordinary” is how I would describe the Personal Project process. For me, it is the beginning of a life-long journey. What, for you, was the greatest challenge?
Mr. A: As a PP Supervisor, the real challenge is keeping the student balanced, focused, yet inquisitive. How did this journey begin for you?
Gurkaran: It began when my parents and I met with you to discuss my project ideas. Initially, I wanted it to concern economics, statistics, and current events. It was during this meeting that we decided we could create a detailed case study of the ongoing Syrian Civil War, and supplement it with an informal scale to rate countries on their degree of responsibility in solving the resulting humanitarian crises. As the project went on, the scale became the focus, while the Syrian Civil War became a testing ground for the tool.
Mr. A: I thought that first meeting was significant because we were able to balance everyone’s idea of what constitutes a strong PP. We brought all the stakeholders into the process to make sure that they were on board with your ultimate idea. I was honored that you chose the topic of refugee protection, which is very close to my professional heart, having worked with the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees.
Gurkaran: Having shifted our focus, we needed to think about how the scale would look, and how we could make it applicable anywhere. We knew that we wanted it to be based on statistics and economic-demographic indicators, so we started out with seven parameters and 10 countries, of varying geographic locations and economic development. Ultimately we settled on six indicators: GDP Per-Capita, refugees produced as a percentage of the native population, poverty rate, natives per refugee, humanitarian aid given, and unemployment rate. These seemed to be reasonable factors when creating a barometer for whether or not a country should absorb refugees or increase their contribution to humanitarian aid.
Mr. A: I thought that this was the most important part of the process for you academically and intellectually. I saw the greatest amount of growth in your own knowledge and understanding of the complexities of the refugee protection process. But there were also some challenges to which you came up with some creative solutions, right?
Gurkaran: I ran into trouble when trying to combine the indicators to form the Index. The solution was found using a biologist’s tool: Punnett Squares. The idea was to plot two economic-demographic indicators against each other in a Punnett Square; using a “high” and “low” scale for each parameter and a complex system for combining them, a country would get a score. Since we had six parameters, we combined them into relevant pairs. For example, the poverty rate was plotted against the unemployment rate to give an idea about a country’s socio-economic situation and determine whether the economy could absorb and integrate an influx of people. Eventually, we had six groups, and final responsibility was determined by the sum of the scores from each group, which would be assessed against an authentic point scale.
Mr. A: I thought this was a clever solution that ultimately helped to create a solid foundation for comparing different indicators.
Gurkaran: Things changed significantly when I decided to split the index into three parts: Part 1 measured whether countries are responsible for absorbing more refugees; Part 2 measures whether countries should increase their contribution to humanitarian aid efforts; and Part 3 presents a composite level of responsibility.
Mr. A: And it worked. Again, for me the toughest part was trying to make sure that this process was your own. The greatest moment for me was when you visited my DP Global Politics class and presented your project. How was that for you?
Gurkaran: It was a great honor. Presenting to students older than me was both scary and fun. I enjoyed it, and feel that they understood my project very well.
Mr. A: It blew them away, and you received a standing ovation at the end. That was the moment for me when it was clear how much you had grown through the process. You never prepared for this presentation with me and yet it was very professional. You used no notes so it was clear that you knew every detail and were able to answer all their questions. Was the PP Evaluation Panel equally impressed?
Gurkaran: Certainly. The response I got from the teachers there was similar to that of the DP Global Politics class.
Mr. A: So what is next?
Gurkaran: I will be moving to a new school next year, in my home country, India. I feel that I can take this to them, and probably this could even be the topic of my extended essay.
Mr. A: Congratulations, Gurkaran. I wish you all the best.

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