The challenge of sustainable and equitable development for the most vulnerable populations of the world has become increasingly urgent as the process of globalization weaves peoples and economies into a single fabric. Through its research and outreach activities, BARA has joined the effort to achieve the 2016 U.N. Sustainable Development Goals of reducing poverty and hunger worldwide and enabling local communities to determine their own sustainable livelihood alternatives. BARA faculty have adopted a livelihood security approach that focuses on the decision-making processes of households and communities within the context of political, cultural, and economic institutions.

BARA faculty have also developed a comprehensive research methodology that integrates qualitative methods, such as rapid appraisals, participatory research techniques, focus group interviews, and team ethnography, with more quantitative survey methods, such as baseline studies and monitoring and evaluation systems. BARA has established its expertise in empirical field-based research and has wide experience in household livelihood assessments, project design, monitoring and evaluation, and policy analysis. The BARA approach is inspired by a participatory development philosophy which promotes local community ownership of the research.

BARA, in its Development Studies program, has conducted research and outreach projects throughout most of Africa, the Middle East, Bangladesh, Latin America and the Caribbean, supported by a wide range of national, international, and non-governmental sponsors.