Is Research for Development (R4D) a good investment? Reflections on lessons from NBDC


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Presented by Douglas J Merrey at the Nile Basin Development Challenge (NBDC) Science Workshop, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 9 – 10 July 2013

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Is Research for Development (R4D) a good investment? Reflections on lessons from NBDC

  1. 1. Douglas J Merrey Consultant-science coordinator, NBDC Is Research for Development (R4D) a Good Investment? Reflections on Lessons from NBDC Nile Basin Development Challenge (NBDC) Science Workshop – 2013 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 9 – 10 July 2013
  2. 2. R4D has a huge potential but this has yet to be fully realized Four recommendations: 1. Effective partnerships – empowered demand-side institutions; 2. Strong linkages to existing development investment programs; 3. Long-term commitment by funding agencies as well as scientists; and 4. Foundation in excellent science Key Message
  3. 3. ∗ Methods, sources ∗ Natural resources management research in CGIAR & CPWF ∗ A little history—roots of R4D ∗ Lessons emerging from Institutional History of NBDC ∗ Recommendations OVERVIEW
  4. 4. ∗ Author’s experience with applied research & action research at IWMI from 1980s ∗ Lessons from CPWF (associated from its inception) ∗ Lessons from NBDC reflected in interviews, review of documents for NBDC “Institutional History” Institutional History (IH) is a team effort but views in this paper are my own responsibility METHODS, SOURCES
  5. 5. ∗ Dilemma: development funding for research ∗ Financers expect measurable concrete development outcomes (confirmed June meetings donors & CGIAR) ∗ Demonstrating clear outcomes, direct benefits easy for commodities, impossible for NR research ∗ Agricultural, aquatic, forest ecosystems are extremely complex as are human behaviors – difficult to attribute changes directly to research outputs ∗ Solution has been various models of “applied research”, “action research”, “integrated natural resources management [INRM] research” ∗  “Integrated Agricultural Research for Development” – IARD, or in CPWF-speak, R4D ∗ Paradigm for new CGIAR Water Land & Ecosystems (WLE) Program [and others] NRM RESEARCH IN CGIAR
  6. 6. ROOTS OF R4D-1 ∗ Anthropology: “applied research” in the service of colonialism—seen as top- down, dis-empowering ∗ “Participatory action research” (PAR) from sociology as solution ∗ Adopted by IWMI & others 1980s ∗ Research is collaborative with communities
  7. 7. ∗ IARD OR R4D also has roots in ecology and innovation systems theory ∗ Places PAR within a firm agro-ecology systems and/or institutional framework. ∗ Broad ecosystems perspective escapes the confines of social science ∗ Now an integrating inter-disciplinary paradigm for doing research ∗ Pioneered by SSA Challenge Program, and some projects in phase 1 of CPWF ROOTS OF R4D-2
  8. 8. ∗ NBDC like other BDCs is based on R4D ∗ Elements include: explicit “theory of change”, Innovation Platforms, consultations with stakeholders at multiple levels, innovative workshop activities, emphasis on communication 1. IH interviews  divergent view of R4D ∗ CPWF management: full participation all stakeholders, integrates notions of power, relations among people, institutions, partners, & how those dynamics evolve; research expected to be relevant by transforming its focus to contributing to real development outcomes* * Disclosure: reflects author’s view as well. 4 LESSONS EMERGING FROM NBDC EXPERIENCE
  9. 9. ∗ NBDC researchers: Many hold much narrower views  research that somehow will in future be relevant for development; some mentioned elements such as ‘research into action’ ∗ Concern by some that R4D dilutes rigors of “science” or is not “real” science ∗ Split between social scientists & others ∗ Incomplete buy-in by researchers 2. Over-ambitious--raised high expectations ∗ +/- 3-4 years, limited budgets, yet expect to develop partnerships, test innovations, & achieve measurable outcomes & changes in policy, etc. ∗ Interviews reflect disappointment, obscuring the real achievements of NBDC 4 LESSONS EMERGING FROM NBDC EXPERIENCE
  10. 10. 3. Consultative but not sufficiently “demand-driven” ∗ Not well-integrate with existing SLM investment program (ESIF) ∗ Driven by international researchers who seek partnerships, collaboration, & consult stakeholders ∗ “Consumers” may have preferred more “traditional” research ∗ Importance of balancing consumer interests and researchers’ proposed “innovations” ∗ Way forward: empower clients to identify and implement possible innovations, researchers acting as consultants, coaches, and process documenters—as in IPs locally ∗ Gap may be policy makers not adequately involved in selecting & testing innovations ∗ IWMI past experience mixed by positive in doing this in Sri Lanka, Pakistan 4 LESSONS EMERGING FROM NBDC EXPERIENCE
  11. 11. ∗ Client-driven research with new roles for researchers challenges deeply held notions researchers hold of their role ∗ Playing activist role, embedded in system not consistent with traditional view of scientist as outside the system, measuring change & processes 4. Large number & diversity of partners is an innovation ∗ Diversity potential source of innovation, uptake ∗ Needs careful management to maximize benefits & minimize transaction costs; create space for partners to participate fully (empowerment) ∗ Used Platforms (IPs, national), steering committee, etc. 4 LESSONS EMERGING FROM NBDC EXPERIENCE
  12. 12. R4D has a huge potential but this has yet to be fully realized Four recommendations: 1. Effective partnerships including empowered demand- side institutions ∗“Effective”- 2 dimensions  Strong commitment from the demand side institutions  Commitment must include empowerment vis-à- vis the researchers. ∗Partners must have a strong voice from the earliest stages in designing research programs 1. Needs time, effort for dialogue RECOMMENDATIONS
  13. 13. RECOMMENDATIONS 2. Strong linkages to existing development investment programs ∗ Ideally implementation & research programs developed together though often not possible ∗ Research needs to address priority issues for higher likelihood of impacts ∗ Potential to “leverage” resources – synergies research & implementation
  14. 14. 3. Long-term commitment of adequate resources by funding agencies as well as scientists ∗ Critical for successful R4D in complex human ecosystems ∗ “Long term” = decade plus ∗ Rare but there are a few examples ∗ CPWF originally 15 years [3 phases] but phase 2 only partly built on phase 1, and has been cut short ∗ CPWF limited budget fragments senior scientists’ allocation of time ∗ Concentration and full engagement of scientists over sufficient time is critical RECOMMENDATIONS
  15. 15. RECOMMENDATIONS 4. Foundation in excellent science ∗ CPWF and NBDC scientists emphasis this ∗ Necessary though not ‘sufficient’ ∗ Science Workshop will show our science achievements ∗ Need to publish
  16. 16. ∗ NBDC has been important learning experience ∗ Produced impressive outputs ∗ Emerging evidence of outcomes-impacts ∗ Significant contribution to knowledge on what is needed to “improve the resilience of rural livelihoods in the Ethiopian highlands through a landscape approach to rainwater management” ∗ I hope future programs will build on this knowledge & lessons to achieve the Development Challenge CONCLUSION
  17. 17. THANK YOU