ADRI Society was first conceived during the late eighties, when the institution of state has started getting weaker and at least concomitantly, if not consequently, the growth process was becoming increasingly non-inclusive. Some articles had appeared during those years which were close to an obituary for development economics, as the trend was fairly worldwide and not limited to India alone. Along with the weakening of the state, there was the obvious trend of weakening of many state-supported educational institutions, including the universities and the research institutes. At this point, the members of the ADRI Society strongly felt that, for the development research to remain alive, it needs to modify its agenda and, secondly, it also equally needs an alternative institutional base. The Research Institute was a response to this challenge.
On the necessity of modifying the agenda of development research, one may note that, for a long time, it has been far more academic, sometimes even esoteric. The people were not always at the centre of these academic pursuits. One of the important objectives of ADRI was, therefore, to make development research overcome this limitation. As regards the institutional base of social science research, it is for certain that just as any other social institution needs to be ‘owned’ by people surrounding it or its clientele, so does a social science research institute. A wholly state-funded institute does not necessarily fit into that framework. The Research Institute of ADRI has thus been making constant efforts to strengthen its institutional base by networking with many development organisation, besides the state. Along with its evolution in terms of agenda and institutional base, the Research Institute had also expanded geographically, by starting a regional office in Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand, aimed at responding to the development research needs of the new state.
The Research Institute, as mentioned before, has been functional since 1991. But initially, its activities were informal with no regular staff working here. This had continued till 1995 when a regular Director and a few research personnel had joined the Institute. Since then, the activities of the Research Institute have grown steadily and during 1995-2008, it has completed nearly 60 studies. One can possibly identify the overall orientation of these research studies, if they are grouped into five broad categories — (i) Literacy-related studies, (ii) Programme Evaluation Studies, (iii) Large Sample Surveys, (iv) Development Research and (v) Miscellaneous Studies.
Literacy-related studies : The ADRI Society, the mother organisation of the Research Institute, also hosts a State Resource Centre (SRC) or Adult Education, sponsored by the central government. The concerned Ministry, therefore, finds it convenient to entrust the Research Institute with external evaluation studies of district-based literacy campaigns, usually in the neighbouring states of Uttar Pradesh, Orissa, West Bengal and Jharkhand. Till date, the Research Institute has completed 15 such evaluation studies. In addition, the National Literacy Mission (NLM), when in need of some research inputs, has often entrusted with ADRI the responsibility of conducting the relevant studies.
Programme Evaluation Studies : For nearly all development programmes, an end-point evaluation is now almost mandatory. Thus, even without applying for it, the Research Institute often receives request for evaluation of various development programmes and they are normally accepted as it strengthens its resource position. Between 1995-2006, the Research Institute have done 8 such evaluation studies, apart from 4 benchmark studies before the implementation of some development programmes.
Large Sample Surveys: This is a field of research which requires very specialised expertise and the Institute is probably the only organisation in Bihar/Jharkhand possessing the same. Till now, the Research Institute has conducted three large scale sample surveys — one each on Women Self-help Groups (SHG) in Bihar and Jharkhand, sponsored by the UNICEF, and the third one on ‘Socio-economic and Educational Condition of Muslims in Bihar’, sponsored by the state government.
Development Research: This is indeed an omnibus category and one of the earliest studies in this group was on the secondary education system in Bihar, sponsored by UNDP. A second study, also completed in early years, was on the state of public finances in Bihar.
A major step in the development researching in the Institute was through its association with the London School of Economics (LSE) in 2000 for their ambitious research effort on ‘Crisis States Programme’. It was being conducted in three countries — India, South Africa and Columbia. The India part of the programme to analyse the development performance of Bihar and Madhya Pradesh in a comparative framework, was undertaken by the Research Institute.
Another substantive research on development was the result the Institute's association with IDPAD (Indo-Dutch Programme on Alternative Development), resulting in the study of displaced persons in India and Bangladesh. During 2003-04, the Institute was also requested to prepare two studies — one on Bihar’s development dilemma (by the World Bank) and the other on the Rural Poverty in Gangetic Plans by the World Food Programme (WFP).
The critical issue of human development is one of the priority areas of the Research Institute and it acquires further importance in view of the State Resource Centre (SRC) on adult education that functions as a sister organisation. A major study with this focus was a comparative study of the trend of human development in four Hindi heartland and Orissa, sponsored by the UNDP. ADRI has conducted this study for Bihar.
Other Academic Activities : ADRI is often referred as the only functional research centre in Patna, other organisations (universities and other research bodies) being handicapped for various reasons. The Institute is, therefore, often requested to undertake some activities either by the state government or by other organisations, which are not necessarily in the form of a research study. Of particular importance in this regard is the submission of two well-documented notes to the Eleventh, Twelfth and Thirteenth Finance Commissions, arguing for the financial needs of Bihar. The note presented to the Twelfth and Thirteenth Finance Commission were more research-based and it was signed by representatives of all political parties, as a rare show of cross-party solidarity to uphold the interests of Bihar.
In the recent past, the Institute has also been the favoured host institution of a number of foreign research scholars working on Bihar from the Cambridge University, the University of Tokyo and the Institute of Developing Economics, Chiba, Japan. The UNICEF had also chosen ADRI as the host institute for their summer interns in the past.