John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
The potential for research to provide short- and long-term improvements in environmental sustainability and rural welfare are widely recognized. Yet there is a huge imbalance between the generation of knowledge and its subsequent translation into interventions and practices that improve environmental decision-making and deliver benefits to communities. This is particularly true for developing countries where resources and technical capacities are limited. Thus finding effective ways of linking research to action and promoting the uptake of evidence-based interventions is increasingly a priority for researchers, practitioners, and policymakers. A systematic understanding of how, why, and when evidence informs policy and action is the objective of this activity.
The diverse resource management problems, resource settings, and variety of strategies used by individual SANREM CRSP research projects provide a rich set of cases to explore the relationships between knowledge generation and policy practice. Each of the projects was designed with the intention of linking knowledge to action through use of the SANREM Targeting Outcomes of Programs (TOP) Framework to develop the original research proposals. Results from this cross-cutting initiative will provide useful inputs into the evaluation of the SANREM program’s overall effect, for researchers will have collected information to assess the degree to which observed changes are attributable to the projects.
Following are specific questions guiding this research:
- What strategies have the research projects used to try and link their research to policymakers and resource users? Have those strategies been effective? Why or why not?
- Who are the participants and actors in the research-action arena? Who is included or excluded, and why? How might outcomes be influenced by who participates?
- How do participants in the research-action arena think about research? Do they value research? If so, for what purposes? How do they think it may help or hinder them in their daily work?
- What factors influence learning by participants in the resource-action arena? What constraints do they face? What factors influence their actions and priorities?
- How have resource users and policymakers applied research findings from these projects in their daily lives and strategic planning? What institutional and other constraints have they faced?
- What kinds of knowledge systems lead to more action and policy responses? Under what conditions can successful knowledge-action efforts be promoted?
- What can be done to improve the knowledge-action link? Specifically, what kinds of insights can the SANREM experience provide to researchers regarding elements sequencing, timing, and delivery of their knowledge-to-action strategies to ensure maximum impact?