Evidence and the Politics of Participation in Academic-INGO Research Partnerships for International Development

Lead Research Organisation: Open University
Department Name: Institute of Educational Technology

Abstract

This proposal arises responsively from concern expressed by both practitioners and academics to improve research partnerships between HEIs and INGOs in the field of international development. In the context of a British funding climate in which academics are under heightened pressure to justify the impact of their research by engaging research users and mediators (HEFCE et al 2011) and INGOs are seeking to satisfy donors and supporters by providing 'rigorous measures of success' for their programmes (Eyben 2013) partnerships are increasingly perceived as mutually beneficial. However, while the drive towards research collaboration has fuelled many new initiatives to broker partnerships, a recent wave of studies have suggested that the effectiveness of partnerships is often limited by constraints to participation (e.g. Aniekwe et al 2012; ELRHA 2012; Hanley and Vogel 2012). These studies have been largely descriptive, focusing on the instrumental nature of partnerships but with little analytical attention to the mechanics of participation or to the implications for the kind of evidence that is valued in and produced through partnerships. A new research agenda is therefore needed to strengthen the analyses of partnerships and in doing so, contribute to broader understandings of the politics of knowledge production within and outside of the academy.

In response, this series brings together interrelated strands of research on 'participation in knowledge production' and the 'politics of evidence'. The seminars will explore the intersection between these two strands by drawing together research from different disciplines and sectors on how participation and notions of evidence are negotiated in research partnerships at three distinct levels: institutions (assumptions, agendas, structures and processes); literacy practices (new communication practices required for effective co-production of research); and research artefacts (tools, techniques, technologies and texts). It will achieve this in the following ways:

First, context-setting workshop informed by position papers will frame the core seminars by providing a series of analytical frameworks for understanding partnerships. This 2-day workshop will also be used to develop a tool kit for participatory analysis of partnership case studies and establish a code of conduct for the following seminars.

Second, a core series of four seminars structured around eight case studies of research partnerships (each co-presented by an academic and practitioner) will be used to create a safe space to facilitate trust and enable critical reflection of experiences in partnerships. These seminars will be innovative in their form using a range of participatory methodologies to structure analysis and debate, encourage active participation, and enable power dynamics within the process to be made visible and confronted. Due to the sensitive nature of discussions, these seminars will be restricted, however, dialogue with external participants will be facilitated through innovative use of social media (including a real-time Twitter-feed).

Third, the outcomes of the core seminars will be presented at a high-level conference which will also incorporate insights and perspectives from a range of UK-based and international contibutors. The conference will conclude with a round-table discussion on the research agenda and around strategies for developing resources to support stronger research partnerships

By drawing together as co-researchers practitioners and academics (including senior and early-career researchers) and research students - who often occupy both roles simultaneously - the seminar series aims to democratise the status of both academics and practitioners as co-researchers. The series will result in the development of publications and resources to inform a new research agenda and improve practice in research partnerships.

Planned Impact

This seminar series has been conceptualised and designed in the spirit of a collaborative research partnership. Responding directly to concerns articulated by both INGO practitioners and academics in the field of international development, it brings together academics and practitioners as co-researchers. For this reason, both academics and practitioners in this seminar series are conceived of as simultaneously researchers, researcher mediators and research beneficiaries - ultimately benefiting from reflections on their own professional practice with a view to improving research collaboration. There are four main groups of beneficiaries:

First INGO practitioners who are charged with providing evidence of their initiatives for funders, supporters and/or their own organisational performance management and learning will benefit from analysis of the interplay between evidence and participation in partnerships and the implications for research outcomes. Participants in the seminar series will also benefit from the opportunity to participate in the process of theory-building as this is an area of research that many practitioners lack confidence in. It is hoped that this will contribute to greater self-identification of practitioners as researchers which might in turn contribute to a shift in the dichotomisation of academic and practitioner-generated knowledge. By involving support organisations like the International NGO Training and Research Centre (INTRAC, providing training and resources for practitioners) and Enhancing Learning and Research through Humanitarian Assistance (ELRHA, provide resources and a research brokering service) in the design of this proposal and in the first and final seminars (see 'Letters of Support') it is intended that these organisations will play a role in ensuring that learning and resources developed through the seminar series will be shared with the wider INGO community.

Second, academic researchers who are interested in engaging in research partnerships with practitioners will also benefit from stronger research collaboration skills. Those participating in the seminar series will benefit from the opportunity to critically reflect on their own experiences and learn from the experiences of others. This will be facilitated by the creation of a safe space for critical dialogue in the form of the core seminars and by the use of participatory methods, facilitated by experienced practitioner-academics. Academics beyond the core seminar group will also benefit from the resources presented on the seminar series website. It is hoped that the involvement of organisations such as the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE) and VITAE in the concluding conference and dissemination of a briefing paper through their networks will also inform the development of training resources, in particular benefiting early career and postgraduate researchers.

Third, HEI professionals working to develop and institutionalise strategies for the engagement of publics in research will benefit from the implications of the seminar's findings for resource development around research training and academic literacies. The resources will be disseminated through organisations such as NCCPE and the Catalyst network of which the PI (and the Institute of Education as the series host institution) is a member.

Finally, research funders and policy-makers charged with commissioning and making use of evidence on international development will benefit from this seminar series. They will benefit from insight into assumptions about the nature of evidence with implications first, for participation in research partnerships and second, for the type of outcomes that do or do not emerge from research as a result. As with the previous group, representatives (e.g. from DFID and ESRC) will be invited to attend the final conference and briefing papers will be distributed.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description The project explored the benefits of partnerships as well as the challenges that limit their effectiveness. Six shifts in thinking about partnerships were identified through analysis of the seven case studies and corroborated by learning from the international conference:

• Moving beyond individuals and institutions (embracing relationships, networks and movements);
• Moving beyond instrumentalism (embracing affect, criticality and 'productuve tensions');
• Moving beyond linear, short-term projects (embracing long-term agendas, complexity and flexibility);
• Moving beyond traditional written research outputs (embracing alternative modes of representation);
• Moving beyond participation in the production and communication of research (embracing participation in agenda-setting, research governance and evidence-use);
• And, moving beyond notions of 'effectiveness' and 'success' (embracing learning and unknowing and de-stigmatizing failure).

These movements were translated into recommendations for INGOs, universities, research funders and policy makers (see section on 'other outputs and knowledge/future steps')

The project also developed a new iterative framework for understanding research partnerships (through research institutions, research identities, research practices, research and research accounts across the domains of context, purpose, power in partnerships and change through partnerships); and a series of participatory tools (including visual, embodied and creative methods such as drawing, play-doh and lego modeling, creative writing and role play). It also modeled a collaborative approach to a research partnership through its governance structure, research design and communication strategy (see section on 'other outputs and knowledge/future steps').

The project has generated a range of research outputs targeted at different audiences. these include a journal article (submitted to Development and Change); Policy brief (published in the open access journal Impact) and a Discussion Guide and Toolkit available here: https://www.christianaid.org.uk/sites/default/files/2017-10/discussion-guide-ngo-academic-research-oct2017_0.pdf
This final resource has been disseminated widely with numerous requests to present/provide training around it. These have included the following:
• The GCRF Global Engagement Meetings in London, Bogota and New Delhi
• Universities UK conference
• NCCPE Engage conference
• IDRC/CCIC/Institute of Canadian Affairs/SSHRC (Ottawa)
• UK Energy Research Centre Conference: Clean growth and innovation in a changing world (Warwick)
• Kings College London event (The impacts of co-production in resilience building: Reviewing the role of research)
• British Association of International Comparative Education annual conference

Finally, the project has mobilised a large network of academics, development practitioners, researcher developers, brokers, funders and policy makers who are committed to understanding and improving research partnerships. The project website (https://rethinkingresearchpartnerships.com) and listserv has provided a dedicated space for this network and the network itself has contributed to knowledge sharing, adaptation and use of the project outputs.
Exploitation Route We have already presented our findings to a number of organisations and at a number of events, including the following:

• GCRF Global Engagement Events (London, Bogota, Delhi)
• IDRC/CCIC/Institute of Canadian Affairs/SSHRC (Ottawa)
• UK Energy Research Centre Conference: Clean growth and innovation in a changing world (Warwick)
• Universities UK event (London)
• Impact Initiative/ODI event (London)

And at a number of academic seminars/conferences at universities including the Open University, Kings College, UCL, IDS, UEA, Bolton and Durham.

Since one of our key target audiences is the UK's research funding sector we would welcome an opportunity to run a training based on learning from this project for RCUK and particularly the GCRF teams.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Agriculture, Food and Drink,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Energy,Environment,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy,Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology,Security and Diplomacy,Other

URL https://rethinkingresearchpartnerships.com
 
Description UPDATE MARCH 2020: Elements of this project (e.g. the resource from the Discussion Guide and Toolkit and analysis of the contribution of practitioner-research to global challenge research more broadly) have been incorporated into the engagement activities of the linked EPSRC grant. Specifically: Presentation by INTRAC at the Oxford-SOAS Research for Development seminar series (February 2020) on research collaboration, referencing the RRC: https://globalresearch.web.ox.ac.uk/r4d-series#collapse1838156 • Presentation by Christian Aid to the Research Advisors Network (informal network of around 40 research advisors and managers working in UK-based INGOs) about their experiences of co-designing a research programme, referencing the Principles and work of the RRC ( January 2020) • Collaboration in Global Challenge Research Podcast for EADI Webinar Series (EADI, November 2019) • Research on Research Institute launch event (Wellcome Collection, September 2019) • NextGen Symposium, Innovative Research and Knowledge Partnerships in the Canadian Global Development Sector (IDRC, Ottawa, Canada, September 2019) • Applying a Decolonial lens to Research Structures, Norms and Practices in Higher Education Institutions (SOAS, September, 2019) • Live-streamed talk: IDS Evidence into Policy and Practice Series (IDS July 2019) • The Power of Partnerships', Impact Initiative IDS, (Wellcome Collection, July 2019) • The Good, the Bad and the Project: Interdisciplinary Research for Global Challenges (University of Oxford July 2019) • Mapping Perspectives on Partnerships, DSA Workshop (SOAS April 2019) • Collaboration for Global Challenge Research, (University of Exeter Global Challenge Research Symposium, June 2019) UPDATE MARCH 2019: The evolving impact from this award has started to merge into the activities/impact of the Understanding and Improving Fair and Equitable Partnerships award (which in itself expanded on the methods, findings, networks of this ESRC seminar series) so refer to the narrative impact section of that EPSRC award for future updates. However, updates specific to this award include: * Acceptance (with minor revisions) of an article to the Journal of International Development (to be submitted in the next submission round once it has been published) * Reported use of the Discussion Guide and Toolkit by the following organisations/initiatives: - Impact Initiative (to frame the IDS Bulletin on partnerships) - UKAC Strengthening Civil Society award (Evidence for Inclusive Development) to support the co-creation phase - 'Knowledge for Change' training through the UNESCO Chair programme in Community-Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education UPDATED AUGUST 2018: Findings from the project were channeled into a range of research outputs targeted at different audiences, including a journal article (submitted to the Journal of International Development); Policy brief (published in the open access journal Impact) and a Discussion Guide and Toolkit available here: https://www.christianaid.org.uk/sites/default/files/2017-10/discussion-guide-ngo-academic-research-oct2017_0.pdf . This final resource has been disseminated widely with numerous requests to present/provide training around it. These have included the following: 2017 • The GCRF Global Engagement Meetings in London, Bogota and New Delhi • Universities UK conference • NCCPE Engage conference • IDRC/CCIC/Institute of Canadian Affairs/SSHRC (Ottawa) • UK Energy Research Centre Conference: Clean growth and innovation in a changing world (Warwick) • Kings College London event (The impacts of co-production in resilience building: Reviewing the role of research) 2018 • Workshop at the Institute of Development Studies • Participation in the Salzburg Global Seminar: Climate Change, Conflict, Health and Education: Targeting interdisciplinary research to meet the SDGS The network developed through the seminar series has also evolved to include academic, civil society and policy organisations from the global South (e.g. Praxis- Institute of Participatory Practices, PRIA, SEPHIS and the Africans Rising for Justice, Peace and Dignity movement as well as the UNESCO Chair Programme in Community-Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education). In June 2017 an OU-funded consortium-building event was held to build on the seminar series and establish a collaborative agenda for the network (launched as the Rethinking Research Collaborative). Through this event a collaborative research proposal was developed which led to a successful bid from UKRI/the GCRF to conduct further strategic research into 'understanding and improving fair and equitable research partnerships in response to global challenges'. This recently concluded project expanded the focus of the ESRC seminar series beyond the UK to include research stakeholders from the global South. It also served to further disseminate the outputs from the seminar series and document impact around use by reviewing and synthesizing the Toolkit alongside other resources to support partnerships to draw out principles and inform the development of capacity strengthening resources targeted to 6 key stakeholder groups. Working closely with UKRI and other funders and policy makers has also facilitated greater impact of the findings from the seminar series to improve research policy and practice in the UK's HE and International Development sectors.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Education,Energy,Environment,Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice,Other
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description 8 Principles for Fair and Equitable Partnerships AND the RRP Discussion Guide and Toolkit featured in UKRI funding calls
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
URL https://ahrc.ukri.org/documents/calls/faqs-gcrf-cultures-behaviours-and-histories-of-agriculture-foo...
 
Description General transformation in professional practice and institutional policy (vis a vis understanding 'evidence' and working in research partnerships) within INGOs
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact Learning about evidence from the seminars within the 'core seminar' group which included heads of research/policy/MEL from Christian Aid, Oxfam, Action Aid, HIV/AIDS Alliance, VSO and IPPF and resulted in changes in organisational strategy around engagement with evidence.
 
Description PI became a REL Associate of Christian Aid's new Centre of Excellence for Research, Evidence and Learning
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
Impact Informed the establishment of the new Centre for Excellence for Research, Evidence and Learning (REL) at Christian Aid and the development of their staff training programme on evidence literacies
 
Description Participation of 2 RRC members (Kate Newman from Christian Aid and Jon Harle from INASP) in the BEIS ODA Capacity Strengthening Review
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
 
Description Discretionary £5k from ESRC to enhance the impact potential of the final dissemination event of the series (supporting the travel expenses of international participants)
Amount £5,000 (GBP)
Organisation Economic and Social Research Council 
Department ESRC Seminar Series
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2017 
End 03/2017
 
Description Open University (internal) consortium-building award
Amount £5,000 (GBP)
Organisation Open University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2017 
End 06/2017
 
Description strategic research to inform RCUK work around ODA
Amount £43,023 (GBP)
Organisation Research Councils UK (RCUK) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2018 
End 07/2018
 
Title Critical reflexive case studies 
Description Co-presented case studies and visualisation by academic and civil society research partners supported by multiple forms of participatory analysis against the project's iterative framework 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact * Recognition of 'productive tensions' between the co-presenters representation of their partnership experience * Generation of a safe space for critical reflection which has been reproduced in organisations beyond the seminar series. 
 
Title Rethinking Research Partnerships: Discussion Guide and Toolkit 
Description This Toolkit/Discussion Guide is a resource developed by the Open University and Christian Aid (Centre of Excellence in Research, Evidence and Learning) as course convenors of the 'Rethinking Research Partnerships' initiative. The guide provides thematic prompts, questions, discussion tools, learning examples from the seminar series and links to further resources to support academic and INGO research partners think through the related issues of 'evidence and the politics of participation' as they plan or evaluate their research collaboration. The full guide is available here: https://www.christianaid.org.uk/sites/default/files/2017-10/discussion-guide-ngo-academic-research-oct2017_0.pdf 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The tool is being used by the following organisations and initiatives: BOND, INTRAC, NCCPE, UKCDS, GCRF, 
URL https://www.christianaid.org.uk/sites/default/files/2017-10/discussion-guide-ngo-academic-research-o...
 
Description Partnership between the Open University and Christian Aid (Centre for Excellence for Research, Evidence and Learning) 
Organisation Christian Aid
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The institutional partnership stemmed from the evolving relationship between the two co-convenors of the ESRC Seminar Series: Jude Fransman (PI) and Kate Newman (CI). It is grounded in learning from the seminar series.
Collaborator Contribution See above.
Impact Currently working on collaborative funding proposals, co-authored publications and course development
Start Year 2017
 
Description Interviewed for Times Higher Education article (published February 2020) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Interviewed for the article: 'Questions over overseas bids as UK grant success rates revealed' (published 12 February 2020)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/questions-over-overseas-bids-uk-grant-success-rates-reveal...
 
Description Jude Fransman Interviewed for Times Higher Education (published January) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Interviewed for the article: 'Are research links with the developing world still a one-way street?' which was published on January 9, 2020
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.timeshighereducation.com/features/are-research-links-developing-world-still-one-way-stre...
 
Description Multiple presentations of the RRP Discussion Guide and Toolkit 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact • The GCRF Global Engagement Meetings in London, Bogota and New Delhi (approx 200 academics, NGO practitioners, research funders, brokers and policy makers)
• Universities UK conference (approx 30 academic HE managers)
• NCCPE Engage conference (approx 30 academics/practitioners/HE professionals/brokers/researcher developers/research fundings)
• IDRC/CCIC/Institute of Canadian Affairs/SSHRC (Ottawa) (approx 20 Canadian policy makers/funders/academics/practitioners/brokers)
• UK Energy Research Centre Conference: Clean growth and innovation in a changing world (Warwick) - approx 40 academics
• Kings College London event (The impacts of co-production in resilience building: Reviewing the role of research) - approx 30 academic and NGO practitioners
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Multiple presentations of the work of the RRC 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Jude Fransman gave the following invited talks/panel contributions:
1. (Joint presentation with Kate Newman) 'Collaboration in Global Challenge Research' for EADI Webinar Series, November 2019: https://www.eadi.org/eadi-webinars/
2. Panel speaker: Research on Research Institute launch event, Wellcome Collection, 30th September 2019: https://researchprofessionalnews.com/rr-news-political-scienceblog-
2019-10-where-next-for-research-on-research/
3 (Panel speaker) NextGen Symposium, Innovative Research and Knowledge Partnerships in the Canadian Global Development Sector, IDRC, Ottawa, Canada, 24-5thSeptember
2019: https://ccic.ca/nextgen-symposium
4. (Panel speaker) Applying a Decolonial lens to Research Structures, Norms and Practices in Higher Education Institutions, 18th September, SOAS: https://www.soas.ac.uk/decolonising-research
5. (Live-streamed talk) IDS Evidence into Policy and Practice Series, 25th July 2019, IDS: https://www.ids.ac.uk/events/how-can-ngos-and-civil-society-organisations-enhance-theirproduction-and-use-of-research/
6. (Panel Speaker) 'The Power of Partnerships', Impact Initiative (IDS, University of Cambridge, ESRC and DFID) 8th July 2019, Wellcome Collection, London, UK:
https://www.theimpactinitiative.net/event/event-power-partnerships-maximising-impact-uksinvestment-interdisciplinary-research
7. (Panel speaker) 'The Good, the Bad and the Project: Interdisciplinary Research for Global Challenges, University of Oxford July 5th 2019: https://globalresearch.web.ox.ac.uk/event/ethics
8. (Live-streamed panel Speaker) Mapping Perspectives on Partnerships, DSA Workshop, SOAS London, April 2019 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQ7F7vS4dfM
9. (Keynote) Collaboration for Global Challenge Research, University of Exeter Global Challenge Research Symposium, June 4-5th 2019
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019,2020
 
Description Multiple talks and seminars with international NGOs based in the UK 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Talks about NGO's use of and engagement with evidence with INGOs including Christian Aid, Action Aid International, Oxfam, HIV/AIDS Alliance, IPPF, Practical Action, VSO and umbrella organisations including BOND and INTRAC. These involved participants of 2-15 from research, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning, Policy and Communications divisions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016,2017