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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.  

Fair and equitable research partnerships case study: Dr Bhavani

Funding for research in international development often includes a focus on fair and equitable partnerships. Academics from the global North are increasingly encouraged by funders to include academic partners based in the global South and civil society practitioners in their research projects. But achieving this is complicated: partnership and research are both political. This case study is one of a set of resources that has been designed to help academics, NGOs, CSOs, research brokers and funders put principles for fair and equitable research partnerships into practice. The case study explores insights from Dr Bhavani RV of the of the M.S.Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) in India, project manager for Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in South Asia (LANSA), an international research partnership funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) (2012–18). After situating the organisational identity of MSSRF and its involvement as lead agency in the LANSA research programme consortium, Dr Bhavani explores several learning points relating to fair and equitable research partnerships – from negotiation of ethical considerations to adaptation of research approach and consortium governance. Finally, she reflects on ways in which MSSRF has both contributed and benefited from involvement in the LANSA research consortium.  

Fair and equitable research partnerships case study: Tom Kariuki

Funding for research in international development often includes a focus on fair and equitable partnerships. Academics from the global North are increasingly encouraged by funders to include academic partners based in the global South and civil society practitioners in their research projects. But achieving this is complicated: partnership and research are both political. This case study is one of a set of resources that has been designed to help academics, NGOs, CSOs, research brokers and funders put principles for fair and equitable research partnerships into practice. The case study explores insights from Tom Kariuki of the African Academy of Sciences (AAS). Tom describes the vision of the AAS and the evolution of the Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA), an agenda-setting and funding platform. He reflects on the impact of shifting the centre of gravity for African science to Africa, issues of trust which limit funders’ interest in devolving fund management to African organisations, and the importance of investing in institutional capacity to enable sustainable research leadership in Africa.

PACS programme summary film

A final wrap up film of the Poorest Areas Civil Society programme in India, showing achievements and learnings.