Business as usual leads to results as usual

As regular readers know, I love having guest writers on my blog who describe their network mapping experiences and who enrich the discussion about potentials and challenges. The question that Hippolyte asks below reminds me of a network mapping session with American/European researchers and African policy makers. We asked (after mapping out the policy network): “So where should we feed our research findings in what format to have the biggest possible impact and make sure information goes to those who need it?” The answer was:

“Write policy briefs and give them to the responsible officer in the ministry.”

That sounds reasonable and made the researchers happy. But how is it that we (i.e. the research for development community) have written research briefs and given them to so many “responsible officers” with very little impact on policy making and little flow of information to those on the ground?

Sure, I’m convinced that it can increase our impact, if we ask our partners, how they can use our information best and what they need, to make disemination and action as easy as possible. But if they don’t know what the different communication strategies and experiences are, which we can offer, they’ll tend to say:

“Well, just continue doing what you’ve done all along.”

And if we don’t understand their incentives for making use of the information or diseminating it, which are different in different economic, cultural and political systems, we won’t get far in terms of impact. Do you know any examples that can help Hippolyte answer his question?

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