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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: Eric Gutierrez

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 Eric Gutierrez of Christian Aid, who was involved in a successful application to the Global Challenges Research Fund for a research project looking at the way economies transition from war to peace. The project is led by SOAS University of London, a respected UK university. Christian Aid became involved in the project because it had previously worked with SOAS to commission research. In this case study, Eric reflects on the experience of being involved in the research application process. He talks about the time and work involved in the application, the challenges of tight deadlines, and the structural barriers that limited Christian Aid’s role. He discusses on Christian Aid’s experience in lobbying for policy change, and how this kind of work can be overlooked by academic actors with less experience of ensuring that research leads to policy change.

Fair and equitable research partnerships case study: Kate Newman

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 Kate Newman of Christian Aid, who reflects on her experience of participating in an moderator panel for the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), convened to make funding recommendations to the AHRC based on a ‘Network Plus’ call funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund. It was Kate’s first time on an academic moderator panel, and she found the experience very challenging. She was not clear about her specific role on the panel (was she there to represent a civil society voice, or as an individual participating in a panel?), there were no clear criteria against which the proposals should be evaluated, and there were vastly different expectations of academic research and development impact across the panel. Kate asks questions and makes recommendations for future panels to enable better participation of civil society representatives on similar panels.

Disaster Risk Reduction in Christian Aid’s Rohingya Response

In May 2017, Cyclone Mora affected 355,000 in Cox’s Bazar. In the Rohingya camps, an estimated 70% shelters and 70-80% latrines were damaged. There are no cyclone shelters within the Rohingya camps and settlements, due to land constraints and government restrictions on permanent structures. With exceptions for the most vulnerable, there is no plan to evacuate the Rohingya camp population to cyclone shelters in the host community. Christian Aid's strategy involves: Community Risk Analysis (CRA) Risk mitigation Increase community resilience Pre-positioning of supplies

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)