Making your research accessible

Development Research Uptake in Sub-Saharan Africa programme launched

By 14/11/2011

A new programme that aims to enhance development research and its uptake in Sub-Saharan Africa was launched earlier this month.The Development Research Uptake in Sub-Saharan Africa programme (DRUSSA) is the undertaking of a partnership of two sub-Saharan based organisations: the Centre for Research into Evaluation, Science and Technology (CREST) at the University of Stellenbosch and Organisation Systems Design (OSD), a South African based consultancy specialising in facilitating change in the research management and capacitybuilding sectors in Africa; and the UK-based Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU), an organisation with 110 African university members. Funded by DFID, the DRUSSA programme commenced on 1 October 2011 and will roll out over a 5-year period

The DRUSSA programme aims to do the following:

  • Addresses the demand for stronger sub-Saharan African (SSA) participation in local pro-poor development research programmes.
  • Helps sub-Saharan (SSA) universities efforts to ensure their local pro-poor research impacts on policy and practice in their countries.
  • Promotes the dissemination of poverty reduction research beyond the academic domain to include and build a socially interactive community of organisations and individuals working in pro-poor development.

DRUSSA identifies the SSA region’s research-intensive universities as institutions whose capacity to be a key resource for international and SSA policy-makers and development organisations working in the field are under-resourced and under-utilised. In the context of Evidence Based Policy Making these African research institutions can play an important role in contributing to the contextualised evidence base to address specific development challenges, and to stimulate demand for better and stronger evidence.

Though the introduction of Research Uptake Management (RUM), a new specialist university management field, DRUSSA will focus on strengthening these universities’ capacity to engage with their stakeholders. The objective is for universities to fulfil their unique role as primary knowledge producers and key intermediary contributors to the major developmental poverty-reduction programmes in their countries and the SSA region.

Introducing Research Uptake Management

Research Uptake Management (RUM) is an emerging university management field with a practical, cost effective and sustainable approach to getting research into use. Research Uptake Management requires specialist individual capacity, aligned organisational structures and strategic management processes to maximise the conditions for the dissemination, uptake and application of scientific evidence. The DRUSSA intervention will provide solutions at individual, institutional and systems levels in order to achieve overall viability and impact in terms of improved participation and policy and practice impact.

A package of Research Uptake Management workprogrammes has been designed to attend to specific areas, and together consolidate and strengthen existing capacity to an operational level that can be sustained in the long-term by the universities themselves. Background to the programme: Identifying the gap between research intentions and impact and the need for Research Uptake Management capacity Across the development spectrum there is an urgency to realise poverty reduction intentions in tangible results for Africa’s poor children, women and men. To this end international donors are demanding increased accountability, impact demonstration and sustainability of outcomes from funded projects. Likewise, SSA governments increasingly attach as a funding condition the requirement that universities contribute to national socio-economic goals by providing research solutions for the full range of stakeholders.

In 2010 the DFID-supported CRU scoping study undertaken as a precursor to the DRUSSA project, confirmed that there is a strong demand in SSA universities for Research Uptake Management (RUM) capacity. A sample of universities located in four countries in sub-Saharan Africa were the focus of the study to establish their levels of awareness of the external demand for research uptake, as well as the current levels of central university management capacity to respond to that demand.

The CRU findings concluded that for a number of reasons, SSA universities’ research is not achieving its potential social impact despite these institutions mission statements including a commitment to be socially responsive. There is a gap between research intention and actual social impact. This gap can be attributed to a range of overlapping factors:

  • Internationally funded research programmes are context specific; research is located in the areas where the beneficiaries live but there is limited contribution by academics within local universities, which means these institutions miss out on opportunities to be strengthened through collaboration and participation.
  • Furthermore, multi-national research groups with interests that are confined to their own research area often carry out research on the periphery of local universities’ academic and management structures. The programme’s strongest relationship may be with northern hemisphere research institutions rather than the local southern universities, which means that the institutional priorities off SSA universities are not addressed or prioritized.
  • In cases where local researchers are used, the universities at which they are employed typically accrue little benefit from the funders’ investment in building programme-based expert capacity to get research into use. Individual researchers often don’t have either skills or capacity to do so, while universities do not provide systems or support to encourage or enable such an intention.
  • In addition, university capacity is weakened when local researchers are employed by outside organisations.

In the long term these factors have contributed to the “de-institutionalisation” of African universities. There is international recognition that university “de-institutionalisation” cannot continue. DRUSSA’s use of Research Uptake Management in its programme targets sustainable solutions to these issues.

The priority of “Re-institutionalising” SSA Universities

“Re-institutionalising” SSA Universities requires a strategy that focuses on organisationstrengthening interventions as well as building the capacity of individual scientists and research managers. In the current situation advancement of individual careers has often  occurred at the expense of building sustainable universities, but purposeful alignment of interests ensures that there is a “co-production” of individual and institutional results.

DRUSSA is a contribution toward one of the critical pathways to effective “reinstitutionalisation” of SSA universities. The programme operates from the principle that the creative effort of individual research should occur within supportive organisations and extensive knowledge networks, and should in fact serve to reproduce all three.The DRUSSA programme keeps top of mind that research that is only accessible to academic audiences has a limited impact. The programme introduces supportive Research Uptake Management systems and skills to assist SSA universities to consistently participate in local pro-poor development programmes and to make research evidence available, accessible and useable within and between the institutions themselves, as well as amongst academic peers, decision makers, practitioners and policymakers throughout both the developing and first worlds.

The programme will directly benefit SSA universities that are currently hosting development research programmes. Targeted research areas across these institutions typically address issues that affect vulnerable populations, climate, health, information, education, governance, food security, gender analysis, and livelihoods and improved life chances for children, women and men in Africa. 24 research-intensive universities will be selected.

Scope

The DRUSSA programme focuses on strengthening Research Uptake Management capacity and participation in the international development scientific research system intwenty-four SSA universities in Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and South Africa. In addition DRUSSA aims to influence over 110 other SSA universities to improve their capacity.

Intended Outputs

  • At least 40 university staff from 24 universities certified as specialist Research Uptake Managers.
  • At least 85 university staff from the 24 and other SSA universities certified through continuous professional development in Research Uptake Management.
  • At least 20 M.Phil graduates (from universities, research institutions, government departments and development NGOs) with a specialisation in evaluation and impact assessment (REI), with the particular focus on undertaking evaluation and assessment of development research programmes and university development research uptake portfolios.
  • At least 24 universities in Sub-Saharan Africa embed Research Uptake Management in their organisational and institutional practices through leadership engagement, training and benchmarking.
  • Systematically documented and shared evidence of uptake and utilisation of research.
  • An established, active, engaged and sustainable network of researchers and Research Uptake Management specialists fully engaged in the international development research system and specialised in making research evidence accessible and useable.

For more details contact:
Diana Coates, Director of Organisation Systems Design
dcoates@OrganisationSystemsDesign.co.za
Call: [+27] (0)84 557 5515
www.organisationsystemsdesign.co.za