Strategies to enhance research impact: Six lessons


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John Young's presentation at the GDN workshop on 'Maximizing the Impact of Agricultural Research in Africa' held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in October 2008. In his talk, he reviews and expands upon the six lessons that ODI's RAPID programme has learned about helping research inform policy and practice.

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  • Strategies to enhance research impact: Six lessons

    1. 1. Strategies to enhance research impact: Six lessons. John Young [email_address]
    2. 2. RAPID programme in ODI <ul><li>Promoting evidence-based development policy & practice </li></ul><ul><li>Through </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Research </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Advice </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Public Affairs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Capacity-building </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Working with: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>researchers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>policymakers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>parliamentarians </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>southern think tanks </li></ul></ul>for further information see: /
    3. 3. <ul><li>Identify the problem </li></ul>Policy makers do not... Commission research Analyse the results Choose the best option Establish the policy Evaluation Implement the policy
    4. 4. Policy processes are... Monitoring and Evaluation Agenda Setting Decision Making Policy Implementation Policy Formulation Civil Society Donors Cabinet Parliament Ministries Private Sector
    5. 5. Policy is chaos <ul><li>“ The whole life of policy is a chaos of purposes and accidents. It is not at all a matter of the rational implementation of the so-called decisions through selected strategies ” </li></ul>Clay & Schaffer (1984), Room for Manoeuvre: An Exploration of Public Policy in Agricultural and Rural Development, Heineman Educational Books, London
    6. 6. Chronic Poverty in Uganda Kate Bird et al, Fracture Points in Social Policies for Chronic Poverty Reduction, ODI WP242, 2004 (
    7. 7. Policy makers are… <ul><li>Speed </li></ul><ul><li>Superficiality </li></ul><ul><li>Spin </li></ul><ul><li>Secrecy </li></ul><ul><li>Scientific Ignorance </li></ul>Vincent Cable – Lib. Democrat MP & Shadow Minister of Finance More at: … practically incapable of using research-based evidence because of the 5 Ss…
    8. 8. There are many other factors Source: Phil Davies Impact to Insight Meeting, ODI, 2005 Evidence Experience & Expertise Judgement Resources Values and Policy Context Habits & Tradition Lobbyists & Pressure Groups Pragmatics & Contingencies
    9. 9. Different notions of evidence Source: Phil Davies Impact to Insight Meeting, ODI, 2005 <ul><li>Colloquial (Contextual) </li></ul><ul><li>Anything that seems reasonable </li></ul><ul><li>Policy relevant </li></ul><ul><li>Timely </li></ul><ul><li>Clear Message </li></ul>Policy Makers’ Evidence <ul><li>‘ Scientific’ (Context free) </li></ul><ul><li>Proven empirically </li></ul><ul><li>Theoretically driven </li></ul><ul><li>As long as it takes </li></ul><ul><li>Caveats and qualifications </li></ul>Researchers’ Evidence
    10. 10. Health Care in Tanzania <ul><li>“ The results of household disease surveys informed processes of health service reform which contributed to a 43 and 46 per cent reduction in infant mortality between 2000 and 2003 in two districts in rural Tanzania.” </li></ul>TEHIP Project, Tanzania:
    11. 11. An analytical framework External Influences Socio-economic and cultural influences, donor policies etc The political context – political and economic structures and processes, culture, institutional pressures, incremental vs radical change etc. The evidence – credibility, the degree it challenges received wisdom, research approaches and methodology, simplicity of the message, how it is packaged etc The links between policy and research communities – networks, relationships, power, competing discourses, trust, knowledge etc.
    12. 12. A Practical Framework political context evidence links Politics and Policymaking Media, Advocacy, Networking Research, learning & thinking External Influences Scientific information exchange & validation Policy analysis, & research Campaigning, Lobbying
    13. 13. What researchers need to know <ul><li>The external environment: Who are the key actors? What is their agenda? How do they influence the political context? </li></ul><ul><li>The political context: Is there political interest in change? Is there room for manoeuvre? How do they perceive the problem? </li></ul><ul><li>The evidence: Is it there? Is it relevant? Is it practically useful? Are the concepts familiar or new? Does it need re-packaging? </li></ul><ul><li>Links: Who are the key individuals? Are there existing networks to use? How best to transfer the information? The media? Campaigns? </li></ul>
    14. 14. What you need to do <ul><li>Who are the policymakers? </li></ul><ul><li>Is there demand for ideas? </li></ul><ul><li>What is the policy process? </li></ul><ul><li>What is the current theory? </li></ul><ul><li>What are the narratives? </li></ul><ul><li>How divergent is it? </li></ul><ul><li>Who are the stakeholders? </li></ul><ul><li>What networks exist? </li></ul><ul><li>Who are the connectors, mavens and salesmen? </li></ul><ul><li>Get to know the policymakers. </li></ul><ul><li>Identify friends and foes. </li></ul><ul><li>Prepare for policy opportunities. </li></ul><ul><li>Look out for policy windows. </li></ul><ul><li>Work with them – seek commissions </li></ul><ul><li>Strategic opportunism – prepare for known events + resources for others </li></ul><ul><li>Establish credibility </li></ul><ul><li>Provide practical solutions </li></ul><ul><li>Establish legitimacy. </li></ul><ul><li>Present clear options </li></ul><ul><li>Use familiar narratives. </li></ul><ul><li>Build a reputation </li></ul><ul><li>Action-research </li></ul><ul><li>Pilot projects to generate legitimacy </li></ul><ul><li>Good communication </li></ul><ul><li>Get to know the others </li></ul><ul><li>Work through existing networks. </li></ul><ul><li>Build coalitions. </li></ul><ul><li>Build new policy networks . </li></ul><ul><li>Build partnerships. </li></ul><ul><li>Identify key networkers, mavens and salesmen. </li></ul><ul><li>Use informal contacts </li></ul>What need to know What need to do How to do it Political Context: Evidence Links
    15. 15. Policy entrepreneurs Storytellers Engineers Networkers Fixers
    16. 16. Practical Tools Overarching Tools - The RAPID Framework - Using the Framework - The Entrepreneurship Questionnaire Context Assessment Tools - Stakeholder Analysis - Forcefield Analysis - Writeshops - Policy Mapping - Political Context Mapping Communication Tools - Communications Strategy - SWOT analysis - Message Design - Making use of the media Research Tools - Case Studies - Episode Studies - Surveys - Bibliometric Analysis - Focus Group Discussion Policy Influence Tools - Influence Mapping & Power Mapping - Lobbying and Advocacy - Campaigning: A Simple Guide - Competency self-assessment
    17. 17. Conclusions <ul><li>focus more on policy than research </li></ul><ul><li>establish different incentives / culture </li></ul><ul><li>establish different systems </li></ul><ul><li>spend more on communications </li></ul><ul><li>engage with different actors </li></ul><ul><li>produce different products </li></ul><ul><li>be ready to seize unexpected policy opportunities and move very fast! </li></ul>To improve impact you need to really want to do it because you may need to:
    18. 18. For further information <ul><li>ebpdn – </li></ul><ul><li>RAPID - </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Working Papers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Briefing Papers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Books </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Case Studies </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Contact: [email_address] </li></ul>