How do research brokers and intermediaries contribute to evidence based policy making? Revisiting the hypotheses

Closing plenary session - Jane Ireri (AMREF), James Nguo (ALIN), Ananya Raihan (DNet)

Closing plenary session - Jane Ireri (AMREF), James Nguo (ALIN), Ananya Raihan (DNet)

I always enjoy the closing session of a conference. As I’m reflecting on what I’ll take away it’s good to find out if it’s the same – or the complete opposite – of the other people in the room. Here are some of the things that they were thinking.

  • being an information repository is not enough – intermediaries are part of the knowledge flow
  • intermediaries can’t be fully neutral – but this isn’t the end of the world
  • intermediaries can (should?) have influence at all levels – how are we connecting at the grassroots?
  • more work is needed on monitoring and evaluation – we’re putting all this work in but how do we judge our impact?
  • policy makers make decisions on the fly with a lot of information in their heads – how can we make sure that research is one of these things?
  • people were encouraged by the fact that funders had taken the time to come to the conference – it shows that there is a real interest in what we’re doing?
  • this was an invaluable networking opportunity

Hypotheses revisited

Catherine Fisher took the opportunity to have another look at the conference hypotheses. There’s been a big response and the graffiti walls are covered with feedback and ideas – these will be fed back at a later date but the general response was:

  • Hypothesis 1 was most disagreed with. One of the problems was that policy was meant to be interpreted at all levels but conversations during the event have mostly just talked about national level.
  • Hypothesis 2 was also challenged. It’s difficult to think of intermediaries as a structure – they’re people playing a role.
  • For hypothesis 3 it was the question of neutrality and whether it’s possible to highlight multiple perspectives. Values will always come in to the question but being further away from the research gives intermediaries a different mindset.
  • In hypothesis 4 the idea that intermediaries can add value is questioned by researchers.

Are we ‘in-between’ or ‘go betweens’ was one response to hypothesis 5. Perhaps we’re trying to be too neutral and too passive – we should be political (though mostly with a small ‘p’). But because of this we also need to be accountable – who will assess how we’re doing?

What next?

HSRC are committed to getting intermediaries from the region (not sure if that meant South Africa or southern Africa) working more closely together. HSRC will be starting the network building process but without taking over or driving the process.

IDS aren’t planning another conference. Now the discussion’s started it’s up to the group to take it forward. As well as this blog there will be reports, audio and video files going online soon. IDS have committed to keeping the virtual space open for the next year to see how it develops. Does this make them infomediary mediaries?

Is this a movement?

On the first day of the conference Megan Lloyd Laney talked about how her team at DFID wanted to begin a communication movement. Geoff Barnard began the closing session of the conference by asking ‘Are we a movement or a happy coincidence?’. The answer seems to be yes and no.

Points against

  • We don’t have common standards
  • We’re in danger of competing against each other – we need to stay strong on the areas that our niches
  • We’re a handpicked group and we won’t become a movement until we bring in agricultural extension workers, HIV workers etc. etc.

Points in favour

  • We’re driven by common objectives – to get others to recognise our potential value
  • We are stronger when we’re working together – for example presenting to donors as a group rather than alone
  • We’re ready to commit to sharing our experiences – we have an online forum for sharing both success and horror stories

Jo Glyde, IDS

Panel members:

  • Ananya Raihman, D-Net, Bangladesh
  • Catherine Fisher, Institute of Development Studies (IDS), UK
  • James Nguo, Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) Kenya
  • Jane Ireri, African Medical Research Foundation (AMREF), Kenya

Chair: Geoff Barnard, Institute of Development Studies (IDS), UK

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