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Balancing research and practice in an international NGO

REL Practice Paper 1 Ten Years of Change is a collaborative, long-term practitioner research initiative designed to take place in three countries – Colombia, Kenya and the UK. It is implemented by the Research, Evidence and Learning team at Christian Aid. The research began with the overarching question how are community members and supporters being influenced by, and influencing, processes of social change? Each country team adapted the question to make it relevant to their socio-political context, and designed research at several different levels, from local to national. This paper tells the story of the first three years of Ten Years of Change. It narrates our ideas and ambitions and how we clarified them; how we identified where, by whom and how the study would be implemented; and how we worked with colleagues in other countries to begin to translate our idea into practice. It then discusses the forces that shaped the parallel but distinct evolution of each of the three streams of the study, before reflecting on the challenges of trade-offs and power. It concludes by returning to some of our assumptions about practitioner research, reflecting on how they played out in practice, finally turning to considerations for the next stage of the study.  

Rethinking research partnerships: discussion guide and toolkit

This discussion guide and toolkit provides ideas and approaches to enable you to think through your research partnerships; to encourage you to critically engage with issues such as the roles different actors play in partnership; and what types of evidence are valued, used and produced. We intend that it will open up space for more voices, perspectives and knowledge to inform research design, implementation and communication. Christian Aid co-led with the Open University on the production of this resource, drawing from a seminar series that brought together academics and NGO staff to reflect on their experiences of research partnerships. This consortium engaged with questions of participation and the politics of evidence in academic-NGO research partnerships. It was funded by the ESRC and this publication is one of the outputs of the series. We don’t expect you to work your way through the guide, but to dip in and out, using the sections that seem relevant and useful to you. It includes some discussion, insights from that emerged from participants in the consortium / seminar series and participatory tools. Please do get in touch with our research, evidence and learning team if you have questions, suggestions or would like to share how you have used the material.

Sierra Leone: women and politics - qualitative participatory research

A participatory governance assessment in Sierra Leone, focused on Christian Aid’s partner SEND and its women in governance project in Kailahun district.

Research methodology: guide to process tracing and realist evaluation

Process tracing was first trialled as a new approach within a series of theory-based evaluations of Christian Aid’s governance portfolio in 2015. The aim was specifically to understand and evidence how Christian Aid and its partners’ accountability practices were contributing to building more (downwardly) accountable relationships more broadly in the context of Bangladesh. The evaluation team added elements of realist evaluation to their evaluation design, in order to allow for greater flexibility of the methodology and ‘user-friendliness’ of the findings. ‘Flexibility’ because selection of methodology in this case preceded the final agreement on evaluation questions, and combining the two different methodologies would provide more room for the evaluators to adapt and tailor the approach based on the eventually defined questions; greater ‘user-friendliness’ due to realist evaluation’s focus on potentially more actionable ‘what works where for whom?’ questions that would complement the more theoretical ‘tracing’ of competing explanations through process tracing.  This guide focusses primarily on the steps necessary to conduct process tracing but includes a brief section on how and where to combine this with realist evaluation. There is a list of selected references at the end of the document for those interested in further reading. Related research Bangladesh: accountable governance - a theory-based approach (process tracing)

Kenya: guide to contribution analysis methods

Contribution analysis was used within a series of theory-based evaluations of Christian Aid’s governance portfolio in 2015, specifically in the Kenya country study.  The approach was used to try to understand and evidence to what extent Christian Aid’s and its partners’ governance approaches has contributed to better health outcomes.  This methodological guide was one of the deliverables of the evaluation and is aimed at Christian Aid staff who are interested in understanding alternative approaches to evaluating governance and other hard-to-measure areas of work.  The guide introduces the theory behind contribution analysis and the practical steps taken in applying the approach during the evaluation in Kenya.  Related resources Kenya: a closer look at older age and disability in health programming