Impact Practitioners

How to approach and learn from research into use activities

By 10/08/2023

This 6-page learning guide commissioned by the Collaborative Adaptation Research Initiative in Africa and Asia (CARIAA) focuses on research into use activities and what you can learn from them. The authors define research into use (RiU) as the uptake of research which contributes to a policy or practice change. Although it was originally written for CARIAA, the guide is well-suited for any research programme interested in improving its RiU activities

The authors Blane Harvey and Marissa Van Epp identify five key activity areas that will help you achieve research into use:
a) capacity,
b) stakeholder engagement, relationship and trust building,
c) evidence that is credible, relevant and contextualised,
d) targeted communication with appropriate messages and relevant channels, and,
e) strategic partnerships between researchers and practitioners (including NGOs, knowledge brokers and intermediaries).

The learning aspect of research into use is structured around “reflection moments” along the timeline of your project. The first moment for reflection and learning is after an engagement event, the second reflection is done quarterly, the next one is after six months and lastly, you should also have an annual reflection. The levels feed into each other – the reflective moment below informs the next one so that you can build on the acquired knowledge and adjust your strategies. The resource provides you with a guide on the reflection moments featuring recommended formats, key questions to ask and supportive tools to use. 

In the annex section of the document, you can find the CARIAA RiU Learning Pocket Guide and Pre-Event worksheet, two useful tools for reflection and learning. The pocket guide focuses on learning from research into use activities and features colourful cue cards that guide you through the process. It also features key questions and recommended formats of reflections (what activity you should do, who should be involved and what you should reflect on).

For example, if we look at the quarterly reflection, it recommends holding a discussion about activities you have documented in the particular quarter and their outcomes. The suggested questions for instance are: “What were the most positive changes or trends in this period?”, “Where did we get evidence of these changes or trends?”, “What actions will you take as a team based on this analysis?” The pocket guide is very easy to follow, with plenty of explainers and examples.

In summary, the CARIAA RiU guide presents a useful method for thinking about and learning from your research into use activities. It provides templates for reflection and learning and can also serve as a source of information on research into use concepts.

This article is part of our initiative, R2A Impact Practitioners. To find out more, please click here.