Bridging Research and Policy
Dylan Winder - DFID
Hilary Warburton - ITDG
Saleemul Huq - IIED
Diane Stone - University of Warwick
- The aim of this workshop was to discuss the potential uses of outputs of the RAPID programme for individuals involved in different areas of research and policy making, and consider future directions for RAPID's work.
- John Young introduced the speakers and outlined the RAPID programme of work to date:
- ODI has focused on four main areas; research on bridging research and policy, knowledge management and communication; and increasing awareness of the importance of research;
- RAPID has completed several projects, including a literature review, the collection of 50 preliminary, and three detailed case studies on bridging research and policy, advisory work on information and communications, a meeting series, and consultation for the Swiss Development Corporation;
- Several key lessons have emerged; the importance of developing research that is credible, the effectiveness of collaborative action-research, and the importance of timing when considering how to give research maximum impact;
- Having developed a conceptual framework for bridging research policy, RAPID is currently working on a political context mapping tool, a set of teaching case studies and a number of participatory training workshops and seminars.
- We do not need to create a breed of 'super-researchers' who can do all of these tasks; we need to work out a better division of labour within the development sector as a whole;
- What we really need is not more research, but mindful, reflective observation of our working lives;
- RAPID needs to focus on the funders of research rather than researchers themselves, so that dissemination can be written into the fabric of research proposals;
- The divide between researchers and policy makers is not as large as that between local decision makers and the lives of people in poverty.
- Targeted bespoke training e.g. For librarians, NGOs involved in policy influence;
- Facilitation of existing networks to strengthen and make better connections, and fill gaps. This would include undertaking advocacy to 'soften up' research funders to be receptive to this approach. It could be done by adding activities and a new focus to another network that is already working on this area, providing training to another network, setting up an e-discussion list for interested people etc;
- Produce materials e.g. for research managers it could be guidelines for good practice to mainstream in all funded research etc; for researchers it could be more 'how to' influence policy etc;
- Reanalysis of the case studies/framework e.g. (i) prioritisation of where money could be spent in different scenarios (ii) role of local people (iii) unpack circles to reveal grey personalities especially in the south (iv) unpack policy stages (v) more examples to create different categories (vi) include power into the framework;
- Further research to test the model in the south; action research to 'operationalise' the framework; integrate space for reflection into research procedures etc.
The New Framework suggests that research uptake is a function of the interaction of Context: Politics and Institutions; Evidence: Approach and Credibility; and Links between Researchers and Policymakers. The project used the framework to explore four recent policy events:
- How did Poverty Reduction Strategies emerge from the international discourse about the Common Development Framework, and become the key financial planning instrument for the World Bank, the IMF and most bilateral donor programmes in 1999?
- The Sphere Project is spearheading the move to strengthen the accountability of humanitarian agencies and to find ways of improving performance in humanitarian response. How did research, and in particular to Joint Rwanda Evaluation contribute to this policy initiative?
- There has been a quiet revolution in Livestock Services in Northern Kenya over the last decade where veterinary services are now provided illegally by trained livestock keepers rather than veterinary staff. Why has convincing evidence of their effectiveness not lead to policy and legal reform?
- How did research contribute to the development of the Sustainable Livelihoods Approach, its adoption as one of the key principles of the 1997 White Paper and its rapid institutionalisation within DFID over the subsequent few years?
This workshop was held for special advisors on putting research into practice. The presentation outlined RAPID's approach to strengthening policy entrepreneurship in the North and South. This was followed by a discussion by a panel of policy entrepreneurs from policy and research institutions, NGOs and Think Tanks, and then a general discussion amongst all participants. Groups were then formed to develop specific ideas for specific audiences.