Monday, June 15, 2009

Who are we hearing?

Listening to multiple knowledges, attempts to redress the current bias.

In this open space session during the EADI IMWG 2009 meeting the group discussed what efforts are currently made to ensure that different groups are included in development research activities and that their views can be heard. This is the core concern of an EADI project funded by DGIS, the department for development cooperation at the Dutch Ministry for foreign Affairs.

The conversation was wide ranging around the issue of research information and communication and covered three elements:
  • Providing access to research information from various groups;
  • Bias in the research agendas set in research organisations;
  • Communicating the outcomes of research to the community.
Providing access to research information
In discussing views of and access to research the following portals within the EADI network (which included also NGO research) were mentioned: research4development and search4dev.
Large portals are not the only way to present collections. Using custom search engines like organisations have made increased access to views from their networks documents. Good examples are the Sangonet search from South african NGOs and the recently constructed Codesria search. Providing this information is only part of the story. Management need to be convinced of the issue.

There is not only a need to work on mobilising research but also promoting access to and creating demand for other sources of research, in the North as well as in the South. The internet may have provided more access to materials but it also means they can be shared whilst still work in progress. ICCO explained how their materials are shared before the final version is loaded onto Search for dev. ICCO research can be found on their wiki which is part of ComPart, their knowledge sharing platform.

Informing research agendas to make them relevant
How could we be sure that research is relevant and really served development goals?
There was the discussion of how donor agencies have produced a projectisation of research rather than organisations setting their own research agenda. This runs the risk of research agendas no longer being local and set by countries. Examples of these are the EADI Geneva conference last year and the UNRISD 2004 conference (see UNRISD News 27).

In discussing the last EADI conference the issue of action research and studies being more clearly of benefit to communities was raised. This was examined in some depth at the IKM emergent session at the EADI meeting.

Mike Powell introduces the IKMemergent project

Impact and uptake of research has been examined by several donors, one of the largest attempts is the DFID program 'Research Into Use' . This demonstrates a change in how research for development is perceived, with the recognition that participation in research leads to better communication. However, some participants were worried that there are few incentives to work in this way. As we were twittering this discussion we received the recommendation to look at RAAKS as an example of participatory research . In conjunction with discussing new innovative approaches we were encouraged to read Knowledge on the move.

Communicating the outcomes of research to the community
In addition to the difference that participatory research makes to communicating results to the community we heard of different approaches. For example how researchers had worked with the journalist Manuel Torres to write newspaper articles on the results of their research. Other materials were produced to reach the farming community.

A full description of the IKMemergent project and further details on each of these elements and more is available at and in previous articles on this blog.

by Chris Addison

See also Euforic newsfeeds on information, knowledge, communication, and from the IMWG 2009 workshop.