|Making research make sense to users|
|Tuesday, 19 November 2013 00:00|
Development means different things to different people. For some, development is understood as a simple and straightforward set of planned processes and outcomes, yet for others it is complex and arises from intricate responsive processes of human interaction. Whichever way development is understood, it can be argued that it should make sense to the people involved and affected.
Issues of ownership, power relations, legitimacy and accountability are at the heart of how people make sense of what happens in their lives. As development practitioners, understanding local contexts and our role in these complex human relationships is important. We are facilitators as well as participants and we are both enabled and constrained by our relationships with those with whom we work. This view has enormous implications for how we design, deliver and evaluate development programmes
Research and its uptake can facilitate development processes. It is one way we can gain knowledge and evidence of what works and what does not. However, it is not the only way to know. Local people have local knowledge based on their own experiences, social relations and institutions that inform them on what works and what does not. Research knowledge and evidence that complement and build on this local knowledge would probably enjoy higher rates of uptake and have greater impact in society. Scientific knowledge should be judiciously used to feed into and inform local conversations that ultimately shape human attitudes, behaviours and actions necessary for social, economic and political transformation. As development practitioners and facilitators of Research Uptake, we need to build strong relationships with our partner communities. We need to engage and participate in conversations with key people and institutions that are at the heart of making policies and decisions, whether at government, corporate, sectoral or local community level. Do we have the right connections and relationships with government officials, policymakers, industry leaders, scientists, professional bodies, community leaders and institutions?
There is recognition already from both political leaders and development partners that local ownership is critical for development to take place. The following statements very clearly make this point:
"We in the developing countries must own the development agenda, and our partners have to align their support to our agenda, our priorities and the sequencing we have set for ourselves ... Development cannot be imposed, it can only be facilitated." -- Former President Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania, November 2004
"Development is something that must be done by developing countries, not to them. Policies and institutional reforms will be effective only so far as they emerge out of genuinely country-led processes. External assistance must be tailored towards helping developing countries achieve their own development objectives, leaving donors in a supporting role." -- www.aideffectiveness.org
The challenge for practitioners involved in promoting Research Uptake is how best to engage widely with local people and institutions, while participating in local conversations in ways that make sense to the intended beneficiaries.
Dr Luke Mukubvu is a Governance and Institutional Advisor at DFID in London and a member of the DRUSSA Advisory Panel.