This article was originally posted by the Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA).
We are thrilled to announce the launch of the Collaboration for Inclusive Development Research (CIDR), a new initiative co-led by CEGA and the Network of Impact Evaluation Researchers in Africa (NIERA). CIDR will examine the state of inclusion of African scholars in the generation of evidence for policymaking on the continent, and identify remaining barriers and promising solutions. Here, Maya Ranganath (Associate Director, Global Networks and Inclusion) and Amy Shipow (Senior Program Associate, Global Networks) discuss CIDR and takeaways from our launch convening in March.
Investments in resources, training, and career development opportunities for African scholars have expanded significantly in recent years, increasing African authorship in peer-reviewed journals and driving better policy outcomes on the continent. Yet several unanswered questions remain, including: What is the current state of “inclusion” for African scholars in global development research? What are the mechanisms by which African-led research influences policy? What progress has been made to support African-led research to date, and what barriers remain? What incentivizes various actors to conduct, support, and utilize global development research? Which actors are best positioned to address remaining gaps, and in what ways?
Building a Movement
To answer these questions, the Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA) and Network of Impact Evaluation Researchers in Africa (NIERA) have launched the Collaboration for Inclusive Development Research (CIDR), with support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and an anonymous donor. This two-year initiative will investigate the barriers and opportunities for African scholars to make meaningful contributions to knowledge and policy along different stages of the education-to-impact pipeline.
“This initiative signals novelty in the way inclusive development research will be undertaken in days to come. This will be the surest bet to achieving inclusivity.” — Amos Njuguna, NIERA Chairperson and 2013 CEGA Fellow.
CEGA and NIERA will review the literature on inclusive development research, conduct interviews and discussions with key stakeholders from the Global North and South, and analyze data from multiple sources. Our findings will inform recommendations designed to guide donors, practitioners, African governments and universities, US-based researchers, journal editors, and other stakeholders in shifting norms and practices to achieve greater equity — and better outcomes — for development research.
“Results from this research undertaking… will drive the inclusivity agenda and discussions for many institutions and projects.” — Annet Adong, NIERA Member and 2013 CEGA Fellow.
CIDR’s Launch Convening
CEGA and NIERA cannot do this important work alone. As our ultimate goal is to create lasting, structural change, we are committed to engaging a wide range of stakeholders in this effort and earning their buy-in. On March 9, 2022, CEGA and NIERA launched CIDR by convening an initial group of stakeholders, including academics, practitioners, and policy-makers (for a full list of our participants, see the event page). We shared our research agenda, gathered insights on participants’ experiences, and established ways to collaborate over the next two years.
We started by discussing what success looks like for the inclusion of African scholars in global development research, how we can get there, and what assumptions we are making. Participants suggested that for inclusion to be meaningful, African scholars must be involved in setting research agendas, publishing in top journals, and disseminating their ideas to industry, private sector, public sector, and policy partners. Additionally, we would need to see African governments and institutions collecting higher quality data, greater ease and quality of collaboration between Global North and South researchers, better access to graduate study, and African higher education institutions being given the recognition they deserve. Importantly, participants emphasized the need to ensure our analysis does not reduce “African researchers” to a monolith, and to carefully consider gender, nationality, language, and other characteristics.
Following the plenary session, we organized four breakout groups around key stages in the education-to-impact pipeline: higher education, training and mentorship, publication and co-authorship, and policy engagement and impact. Each group was led by a NIERA member and a CEGA staff member or affiliated professor. During the sessions, participants helped us refine our research agenda, and shared experiences that will frame our work moving forward. We briefly describe each CIDR focus area here:
“This has got to be the most promising collaboration of this type anywhere on earth.” — Constantine Manda, NIERA Member and 2012 CEGA Fellow
Many of the top-caliber economics and public policy programs are currently based outside of Africa. With input from our partners, CIDR is keen to explore pathways for strengtheningAfrican Institutions, as a critical complement to capacity building opportunities abroad. Among other questions, CIDR will explore incentives for African students to enroll in economics, social science, and public policy related graduate degree programs in Africa, the teaching and resource needs of universities on the continent, and the elements of effective partnerships between universities.
Training and Mentorship
While opportunities for African scholars to build impact evaluation skills and professional networks have grown in recent years, there has never (to our knowledge) been a large, coordinated effort to pool program data and explore the extent to which these programs help drive shared outcomes of interest. Given CEGA and NIERA’s long-standing commitment to building capacity for African scholars, uncovering which types of programs (and program elements) are most effective is a core objective of CIDR. For example, we’ll explore the extent to which making research funds and other resources (e.g. course buy-outs) available to African scholars is needed to ensure that they can apply new skills and further their careers. In addition to looking at program effectiveness, we will look at ways to ensure that capacity-building investments are institutionalized and sustainable.
Publication and Co-Authorship
Donors and policymakers often look to “top journals” for the highest quality evidence. CIDR recognizes that any effort to center African voices in global development research must examine the publication process — including journal outreach, peer review, and acknowledgement — and ensure that it is inclusive of scholars from different backgrounds (which may subscribe to different research paradigms). One of CIDR’s priority objectives is to identify common biases in publication, and assess promising ways to close the publication gap for African scholars, including (for example): 1) normalizing open access; 2) providing mentorship to African authors; 3) bolstering the reputation of Africa-based journals; and 4) rethinking journal outreach and engagement strategies.
Policy Engagement and Impact
Whether empirical evidence is taken seriously in the design of African policies and programs depends on a large number of factors, including local and national politics, donor priorities, relevance and timing of evidence generation, trust in academic institutions, and so on. Of course, our locus of control as a community made up primarily of researchers and donors only extends so far. CIDR is eager to explore how factors within our control — e.g. how research resources are allocated to projects and programs, and norms around the creation of research agendas — can help to shift power dynamics and elevate African voices in research and policy debates focused on Africa. We are particularly excited to work with donors in our community to explore how funding decisions, and the transparency (or opacity) of these decisions, can influence policy dynamics on the ground.
The Path Forward
We believe that CIDR is an important step in a larger movement towards systematically identifying and removing barriers to the inclusion of African scholars in global development research. As mentioned above, this is necessarily a collective, collaborative effort. CIDR honors the great work many individuals and institutions are already doing to empower African researchers by creating an accessible platform for knowledge-sharing and collaboration. Together, we can reinvent the structures and incentives driving the generation of evidence for policy making in Africa such that African voices are at the center. As we proceed with our work, we invite any individuals or institutions interested in joining our movement to reach out to us.