Home / About Us / About Rajesh Tandon

About Rajesh Tandon

Born in a middle class family in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, India, on 14 February 1951, Dr. Tandon is an extremely affable person. He occasionally refers to himself as 'Kanpuria', perhaps in a lighter mood, repeatedly indicating his Kanpur origin.

A Ph.D. from Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, USA and an electronics engineer (IIT, Kanpur) with a graduation in management (IIM, Calcutta), Dr Rajesh Tandon is an internationally acclaimed leader and practitioner of participatory research and development. He founded the Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA), a voluntary organisation providing support to grassroots initiatives in South Asia, and continues to be its Chief Functionary since 1982.

Participatory Research (PR), the forte of PRIA’s work, is a methodology that values experiential knowledge and practitioner’s wisdom in addition to the more formal knowledge available in academia and books. In order to bridge the divide between the world of practice and the world of research, Dr Tandon has undertaken a number of initiatives to promote engagement of institutions of higher education with civil society and local communities to foster knowledge generation and mutual learning.  This work found further support when he was appointed in 2012 as UNESCO Co-Chair on Community Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education (www.unsecochair-cbrsr.org). The UNESCO Chair grows out of and supports UNESCO’s global lead to play ‘a key role in assisting countries to build knowledge societies’.

Dr Tandon has authored more than 100 articles, a dozen books and numerous training manuals on themes such as democratic governance, civic engagement, civil society, governance and management of NGOs, participatory research and people-centred development. He has authored/co-authored several books, including Community University Research Partnerships: A Global Perspective (2015), Global Governance, Civil Society and Participatory Democracy: A View from Below (2014); Civil Society and Governance (2003), Reviving Democracy (2003), and Voluntary Action, Civil Society and the State (2002); and co-edited Higher Education and Community-Based Research: Creating a Global Vision (2014), Globalising Citizens: New Dynamics of Inclusion and Exclusion (2010), Participatory Citizenship: Identity, Exclusion, Inclusion (2006) and Participatory Research: Revisiting the Roots (2002).

Tandon serves as chairperson of the Global Alliance on Community-Engaged Research (GACER) network, which facilitates the sharing of knowledge and information worldwide to further community-based research. He presented the GACER policy brief, “Higher Education, Community Engagement and the World We Want,” at the UNESCO World Conference on Higher Education in Paris in July 2009, and is co-editor of the GUNI Report on “Engagement, Knowledge & Higher Education: Rethinking Social Responsibility” (2013).

He has been inducted to the International Adult and Continuing Education (IACE) Hall of Fame (class of 2011). The award recognizes innovative leaders who believe passionately in the evolutionary power of education and are themselves exemplary lifelong learners who have left lasting impressions on the students, institutions, and organizations they serve. The University of Victoria, Canada, awarded Dr Tandon the degree of Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa) in June 2008 in recognition of his pioneering work in the area of civic engagement, governance and community based research.

In 2013, Dr Tandon was appointed as a member of the sub-committee constituted by the Planning Commission of India to make recommendations on strengthening community engagement in higher education for the 12th Plan. He has served in an advisory capacity on numerous other expert groups of several ministries of central and state governments. For his distinguished work on Gender Issues, the Government of India honoured Dr. Tandon with the Prestigious Award in Social Justice in March, 2007.

Tandon has been Chair of the external advisory committee at the Office of Community Based Research at the University of Victoria in Canada (2006); chair of the International Forum on Capacity Building of Southern NGOs (1998-2002); president of the Asian-South Pacific Bureau of Adult Education in New Delhi (1991-2000); and vice president of the International Council for Adult Education in Canada (1986-1994). He also serves on the Boards of many national and international non-profit organizations, and has served as Advisor to the Commonwealth Foundation, UNDP, and numerous other international agencies.

Positions of Responsibiities

In extending support, held positions of responsibilities within India as well as internationally

2000 - to Present
Co-Chair, UNESCO Chair on Community Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education, 2012-2016, renewed for second term 2016-2020

Chairperson of GACER network. PRIA is also the nodal organization for South East Asia for the Alliance.The representatives of universities, networks and civil society organizations created The Global Alliance on Community-Engaged Research (GACER) in May 2008. The main objective of the Alliance is to facilitate the sharing of knowledge and information across continents and countries to enable interaction and collaboration to further the application and impact of community-based research for a sustainable just future for the people of the world.

Member, Sub-committee--Strengthen Community Engagement of Higher Education Institutions, since September 2011

Chaired session on University-Community Engagement for Societal Change and Development: Possibilities and Challenges at the UNESCO World Conference on Higher Education, July 5-8, 2009 at Paris

Chair, External Advisory Committee, Office of Community Based Research (OCBR), University of Victoria, Canada, 2006

Member, Civil Society Advisory Committee (CSAC), The Commonwealth Foundation, UK, 2004-2006

Chairperson, Board of Directors, Montreal International Forum, 1998-2010

Chairperson, International Forum on Capacity Building of Southern NGOs, 1998-2002

Programme Director, Citizens and Governance Programme, The Commonwealth Foundation, 2000-2003

Chairperson, Voluntary Action Network India (VANI), 2003-2010

Chairperson, Board of Directors, Charities Aid Foundation - India, 1998-2004

Governing Board/Executive Council Member / Chairperson for India based organisations - Gram Vikas (Orissa), SPARC, Bombay, UNNATI, Ahmedabad, Sahbhagi Shikshan Kendra, Lucknow, CENCORED, Patna, Lok Jagriti Kendra, Madhupur (Jharkhand) and Samarthan, Bhopal

2000 - 1995
Founding Board of Directors, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, U.S.A., 1993 

Chairperson of CIVICUS Board, 1997-1999

Convener, Task Force of Millennium Project of The Commonwealth Foundation, UK, 1997-1999

Member, Committee formed by the Ministry of Rural Development (MORD), Government of India, to access the data received from the states/ UTs and determine whether or not they have adequately empowered their panchayats at all levels (2000)

President Asian-South Pacific Bureau of Adult Education (ASPBAE), New Delhi, 1991-2000.

1995 - 1990
Chair, Participation Sub-Group, NGO Working Group on the World Bank, 1993-1996

Chairperson, Voluntary Action Network India (VANI), New Delhi, 1993-1996

Vice-President, International Council for Adult Education (ICAE), Canada, 1986-1994

Associate, Synergos Institute, U.S.A., 1987-1992

Catalytic for promoting role of civil society in World Declaration of Education for All, Jomtien, 1992.

Work now done by the Centre for Environmental Education, ICAE resulted from linking adult education to environment and sustainable development in the UN Conference on Environment and Development, Rio de Janeiro, 1992.

1989 - 1980
International Coordinator of Participatory Research Network, 1980-1985

Board of Directors, Institute for Development Research (IDR), Boston, U.S.A 1985-2000

Member, Planning Commission's Working Group in the involvement of Voluntary Organisations in the Implementation of Rural Development Programmes and Technology Transfer to Rural Areas.

Founder Member, ASTHA, Udaipur, Rajasthan; Shramik Bharati, Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh; Centre for Workers Management, New Delhi

Training Consultant to Asian and Pacific Centre for Women in Development (ESCAP), International Council for Adult Education, Indian Adult Education Association, about a dozen public sector industrial undertakings and several voluntary agencies engaged in rural development.

Training and Organisation Development Consultant to Danish International Development Agency and Royal Netherlands Embassy, New Delhi.

Consultant for UN organisations on issues of drinking water, sanitation and local governance.

Contribution to UN Right to Learn Declaration, 1982.

1980 - 1970
Developed participatory training methodology in promotion of National Adult Education Programme and Total Literacy Campaign of Government of India.

Nehru Literacy Award 2016, awarded by Indian Adult Education Association

First Indian to be inducted to the International Adult and Continuing Education (IACE) Hall of Fame (class of 2010)

Awarded Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree by the University of Victoria (2008)

Awarded Social Justice Medal by National Legal Services Authority and Institute for Gender Justice (2007)


  • PRIA facilitators listen, engage and explain at the level where participants understand and learn through many practical exercises. The best workshop on gender that our employees have attended

    Tsering Youdon
    Program Officer, Swedish Organisation for Individual Relief
    SOIR-IM, Dehradun, Uttarakhand
  • Elected members & officials from Northern Province, Sri Lanka visited PRIA to learn about their exemplary work in developing citizen participation in governance and service delivery. JGU thanks PRIA.

    Prof. R. Sudarshan
    Dean, Jindal School of Government and Public Policy
    O.P. Jindal Global University
  • Undeniably good work done by PRIA. My visits to the communities they work with let me hear grassroots voices and stories...deeply rewarding for my personal growth, work and future research

    Loreen Regnander
    Intern, University of Victoria, Canada
  • PRIA has helped to build a large movement for citizens to use Panchayati Raj Institutions at the local level, to use their leadership, their voice, to bring about democracy from below

    Dr John Gaventa, Director of Research
    Institute of Development Studies
    Sussex, UK
  • Thank you PRIA -- for helping me gain the confidence to speak up. Today, I do not hesitate to speak with the sarpanch.

    Renu Joshi
    ASHA worker
    Hinglaz gali Anganwadi Centre, Siwana Block, Barmer, Rajasthan
  • I have thoroughly enjoyed the privilege of being able to enroll myself in the course…this program has opened my eyes to possibilities for my life which were previously unconsidered

    Tripti Vinita Pal, Alumnus
    Appreciation course
  • I am a third party facilitator for three large institutions but I did not know half the things we have discussed in the Third Party Facilitator Training I attended organized by PRIA

    Joint Secretary of Lakshmi, an NGO
  • Participatory Approaches for Social Inclusion course was undoubtedly beneficial for my research work, providing a deep understanding of theoretical aspects and the applied side of participation

    Pallavi Mishra
    PhD Research Scholar
    Jawaharlal Nehru University
  • We learnt multi-stakeholder dialogue as a tool for advocacy from PRIA…it is a wonderful tool for organising people

    Ashok Kadam
  • I am an example of the Kishori Panchayat Programme which gave young girls the desire to do something, a reason to embrace life

    Kishori Panchayat Member

Have Query?