Tag Archives: systems thinking

Decolonising development: power dynamics in the knowledge sector
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Emily Hayter discusses how to ensure research evidence is considered as part of policy making and the role this can play in decolonizing development. Continue reading

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Ten Videos on Evidence and Policy
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Here are a few of our favourite videos featuring researchers, policymakers and practitioners all over the world discussing key issues in evidence-informed policy: what it is, what the challenges are, and how to address them. Got more to share? Please tell us in the comments! 1 What is EIPM? Here Louise Shaxson of the Overseas Development Institute’s Research and Policy in Development programme draws on her experience with the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to explain the concept of evidence-informed policy making, highlighting the role of processes within public institutions: “you can have the best evidence in the world but if you put it through poor processes you won’t get good evidence informed policy making”. At INASP we see these processes as a complex set of structures, relationships and behaviours within public institutions that shape how evidence is gathered, synthesised, appraised and communicated to inform policy. 2) Getting … Continue reading

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Who drives research in developing countries?
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This piece was previously published on Jon Harle’s Medium blog site, republished here with his permission. To what extent is research on development issues done by researchers in developing countries? To what extent do those researchers actually decide what research needs doing and what questions need asking? And if developing country researchers do decide, to what extent do they do so in collaboration with the people who might ultimately have a use for that knowledge ? These aren’t new questions, but they re-emerged for me recently in a series of studies we commissioned of research and knowledge systems in Somalia and Somaliland, Liberia and South Sudan. And they’re echoed in a series of essays on the ethics and politics of knowledge production in fragile states. It’s a well-worn maxim that appropriate solutions require local knowledge. Yet although this is well recognized, it often seems to be missing when research is commissioned … Continue reading

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Why we need to take a collective action approach to research capacity building
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Sometimes it feels hard to keep afloat in the tide of thinking and debate about development – what to do, how to do it better – and difficult to find time to take the latest thinking and actually incorporate it into programme design. Harder still to incorprate the latest thinking into projects that are already in progress. It’s a couple of years since David Booth and Diana Cammack published their book on governance in Africa (there’s a nice summary here). They argue that development is about solving collective action problems. But the key idea – that problems can only be tackled by ditching the supply/demand focus, and by bringing different groups together and finding a common ground – stuck, because it made so much sense and resonated with much of what we’ve learnt at INASP over the years.  As they argue: ‘…governance challenges are not fundamentally about one set of … Continue reading

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How do you build a ‘system view’ of a country – and then what do you do next?
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In the last year or so we’ve been grappling at INASP with what it means to take a systems approach to capacity building (and we’re not the only ones thinking about this, as ITAD’s framework suggests). As we blogged last year, we have begun by trying to develop a more detailed ‘systems’ view of some of the countries in which we work. It’s an exploratory approach – and these are by no means detailed, in-depth pieces of analysis. But they do give us a much richer understanding of some of the key enablers and obstacles to our work. And they show that light-but-valuable analysis of this type is within the scope of even a small NGO like INASP (we currently have around 30 members of staff, working in over 20 countries). Step one:  a quick sketch We’ve taken a two-stage approach. Firstly we’ve quickly mapped the research and knowledge system … Continue reading

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World class universities – or world class systems?
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The idea of ‘world class universities’ grips the higher education sector, driven by several big international rankings. It’s an idea that is no less popular when it comes to many of the countries in which INASP works. But when it comes to research and higher education for development, is it world class universities that we should be pursuing? Different institutions to do different things Goolam Mohamedbhai argues that what African higher education needs is ‘mission differentiation’, namely a range of institutions doing different things. Rather than focusing on creating new universities, governments should instead be supporting existing institutions in different ways – some to become more research-focused, and some to concentrate more on undergraduate education. ‘It would be impossible, and unnecessary, for most staff in all tertiary institutions on the continent to have a PhD’ he argues. In a similar vein, Lynn Meek argues that our emphasis should be on … Continue reading

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