"The expectation of actively promoting research uptake requires many researchers to move out of their comfort zones and incorporate new processes, approaches and communication mechanisms into and alongside their research."
This learning guide, commissioned by the Collaborative Adaptation Research Initiative in Africa and Asia (CARIAA), is designed to provide research teams with a bottom-up and experience-based tool to better understand the effectiveness - and inefficiencies - of different approaches to Research-into-Use (RiU), the uptake of research which contributes to a change in policy or practice. The learning approach can also help to facilitate adaptive and reflexive approaches to RiU. Although this guide was developed for CARIAA, it has been designed so that any research programme interested in improving its RiU practices can use it.
Funded by Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the United Kingdom (UK)'s Department for International Development (DFID), CARIAA is a 7-year (2012-2019) programme aiming to build the resilience of vulnerable populations and their livelihoods in three climate change hot spots in Africa and Asia: deltas, semi-arid lands, and glacier- and snowpack-dependent river basin. To do this, the programme supports four consortia, which conduct collaborative research on climate change adaptation and resilience in these hot spots. They include: Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR); DEltas, vulnerability and Climate Change: Migration and Adaptation (DECCMA); Himalayan Adaptation, Water, and Resilience Research on Glacier and Snowpack Dependent River Basins for Improving Livelihoods (HI-AWARE); and Pathways to Resilience in Semi-arid Economies (PRISE).
Research uptake and RiU can be strongly connected to the research process itself - for example, through the use of participatory or co-productive research methods for designing research, gathering evidence, and doing analysis, which can increase the uptake of research at the earliest stages. There are also a range of activities that can be undertaken alongside evidence gathering that promote RiU, and which feature strongly in CARIAA activities, such as stakeholder engagement, communication, the development of strategic partnerships, and capacity development (e.g., through trainings/workshops).
The CARIAA programme has a number of thematic learning questions in its M&E [Monitoring and Evaluation] and Learning Framework that pertain to stakeholder engagement and RiU, including:
- How effective are the consortia at reaching into networks of stakeholders and intended research users?
- What has influenced stakeholders' demand for adaptation evidence, evidence-based policy and planning options? What are the factors or capacities that enable or inhibit them from acting on new knowledge? What can we learn about the appropriate ways of engaging different stakeholders groups - e.g., in hot spot regions, in sub-national, national, regional, and international policy, planning, and practice processes?
As explained in the guide, RiU learning offers an evidence-base from which emerging stories of change can be sourced as participants reflect upon the successes or challenges of their engagements. At the same time, consortium members involved in stories of change can document their learning from selecting, producing, and sharing these stories and can use the RiU learning guide to capture lessons about what contributes to effective communication and uptake of research.
The resource also includes a pocket guide for use in the field. In the CARIAA approach to RiU, regular reflection on RiU activities within and across the programme's four consortia allows the programme to adjust its RiU strategies based on collective learning about RiU. Cyclical reflection and action are crucial to ensuring that CARIAA research is relevant and used. This pocket guide includes "cue cards" intended to guide four kinds of reflection moments that should feed into each other: event, quarterly, six-monthly, and annual.
Email from Oxfam Policy & Practice to The Communication Initiative on June 30 2017; and CARIAA website, July 6 2017.