Impact Practitioners

How to Drive Impact: Insights from the RDI Network

By 11/04/2024

This presentation from the Research for Development Impact (RDI) Network offers valuable yet succinct insights from their Evidence to Impact study for those involved in development programmes who want to make a bigger impact.

The RDI Network brings together practitioners, researchers, and evaluators working in international development and global social justice.Their goal is to promote and support ethical and effective development research, cross-sector collaboration, and the uptake of evidence in policy and practice.

Research and evidence are crucial to ensure that development work makes a difference, but there are a number of challenges to be aware of. These include limited coordination among different stakeholders, and the need to match the demand for evidence with its supply in the development field. And, while there is a need to strengthen the amount, quality and impact of research for development, this requires a deep understanding of incentives, constraints and opportunities.

The presentation gives an overview of the Evidence to Impact study which was conducted by the RDI Network. It found that the current policy context for research is characterised by mixed views on its importance and relevance, and missed opportunities for drawing on research evidence as the basis for aid programmes. The study identifies five key ‘facilitators’ that can enable impacts such as policy changes, and institutional changes. These factors can be mapped onto their Framework for Exploring Research Development Impacts (FERDI):

  1. Foundational facilitators: Get familiar with the research context and engage with the people who will use the research.
  2. Planning for impact: Focus on making an impact and use methods that support it.
  3. Engaging end users: Actively involve stakeholders in the knowledge creation process.
  4. Influential outputs: Tailor your research findings to meet specific needs.
  5. Lasting engagement: Maintain relationships and networks through continuous engagement.

Alongside these key facilitators, research partnerships can play a pivotal role in promoting research uptake and development impact. For these partnerships to achieve their full potential, the study suggests improving research communication skills and addressing incentive or reward structures.

To conclude, in order to strengthen development impact, research must prioritise impact, uptake, and use. To achieve this, these essential steps must be taken:

  • Drive action and change at both individual and institutional levels.
  • Align incentives, requirements, frameworks, and tools with evidence.
  • Foster ongoing engagement and collaboration to better match research supply and demand in real-world contexts.

In summary, this presentation provides an easy-to-understand overview of the RDI’s Evidence to Impact study. It is a useful starting point for anyone involved in development work who wants to bridge the gap between research and real impact.

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