One of the key challenges for researchers and those supporting research activities, particularly in the field of poverty reduction and development, is to ensure that research findings are relevant to and taken up by poor people and/or the people and organisations working with them. The International Forum for Rural Transport and Development (IFRTD) has responded to this challenge by developing a networked research methodology that builds ownership and communication into the design of the research programme itself.
There is nothing really new in the concept of Networked Research, ‘participation’ and ‘ownership’ are familiar buzz words for the development community. This methodology was born from the recognition that if we are to achieve truly southern driven, pro-poor development, then we need to tackle research, the pillar that supports our development agenda, in a much more participative way.
This methodology brings together people from different countries or contexts to collectively build a common analytical framework for their research. During the research phase support and/or technical back-stopping is provided to the researchers from their peers (via an email discussion list) and/or the core project team. The programme then culminates in a researcher’s workshop bringing together all the participants to analyse and peer-review their findings. This synthesis and the original research is shared at an international event alongside other dissemination activities.
This methodology has demonstrated several significant impacts:
- The creation of a community of practice around a particular issue, encouraging learning and sharing across geographical and hierarchical boundaries.
- The harnessing of local knowledge, experience and latent research skills.
- National ownership of the research theme and findings
- The stimulation of debate at national and local level
- The creation of opportunities for raising awareness of the issues and getting a wide range of stakeholders committed to their resolution
- Cost effectiveness
- Wider and more interactive dissemination of the research findings.
A networked research programme does not place any institutional ownership on the knowledge or information it generates. Attempts to copyright or own the outputs of networked research would in fact undermine the methodology’s core values of peer learning, south – south exchange, and action-oriented research. Programme participants are encouraged to share the research outputs and use them to leverage change in relation to their own work and their national context.
To see how the theory of networked research inspired the production of the Mobility and Health programme's 'Research Guidance Manual', where researcher's themselves design the methodology they will be using click here.
IFRTD has produced a guide to conducting networked research. This new publication outlines clearly the various stages, principles and challenges of this innovative approach. For more information click here.