School of Graduate Studies, Research & Extension hosts Policy Dialogue on Demand Driven Research

By Philip Khamati

In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of demand-driven research in shaping effective policies and programs. Demand-driven research is characterized by its responsiveness to the needs and priorities of stakeholders, including policymakers, practitioners, and communities affected by the issues being studied. This approach emphasizes the need for research that is directly relevant to the challenges faced by decision-makers, with the goal of informing evidence-based policy and program development.

The Network of Impact Evaluation Researchers in Africa (NIERA) in partnership with the African Alliance for Partnership (AAP) hosted a public virtual dialogue on promoting demand-driven research in Africa on Friday, June 2 2023 from 2:30-4:00pm CAT/3.30-5.00pm EAT. The webinar, titled Leveraging Demand-Driven Research for Evidence-Based Policymaking and Program Development: Challenges and Opportunities had the participation of over 80 faculty and students from universities, funding agencies and non-governmental organizations among others aimed at promoting dialogue and policy engagement on topical issues related to the development of the African continent.

In his keynote address, Dr. Sam Oti, Program Specialist at Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) highlighted the role of Demand Driven Research Initiatives (DDRIs) in developing Demand Focused Evaluations (DFEs) for implementers in informing decisions that consider time, budgetary and operational constraints when implementing projects. These initiatives should respond to specific needs of users while creating awareness among relevant stakeholders involved. Dr. Oti urged participants to reflect on who’s demand counts, whether DDRI projects are rigorous enough and the willingness of funders to pay for these rigorous evaluations.

During the panel discussions, Chris Chibwana from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation noted the need for purposeful research in the context of limited resources and donor fatigue. Research has to be decision relevant embedding a larger purpose of improving lives. This was reiterated by Robin Miller on undesirable consequences of impact evaluation projects and the need for fit training of personnel conducting impact evaluation training.

Further, Dr. Elizabeth Mkandawire - FSNet Africa, called on researchers to desist from working in isolation and embrace new ways of conducting research through collaborative approaches that involve stakeholders while ensuring evidence-based research is understood by end users. Maureen Gertrude from Oxfam Kenya Programme added to this by calling upon strategic research partnerships in generating evidence that stimulates conversations around emerging trends such as unpaid care and domestic work.

Research institutions including universities should relook and restructure incentives for researchers beyond publication records and incorporate the impact of research works as provoked by Prof. Joost de Laat, Director, Utrecht Centre for Global Challenges (UGlobe). He further noted the need for universities to spur the capacity and interest of students to embrace impact evaluation through teaching.

In his closing remarks, Prof. Richard Mkandawire from AAP called for agency in translating research into use with capacity to influence change and reform that impacts the society. Here is the webinar recording.

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