Making sense of KNOWFOR in Indonesia

Mar, 2017


In February 2017, Rachel Claus and Dr. Brian Belcher participated in and helped facilitate a sense-making workshop on CIFOR’s overall contribution to the KNOWFOR Program. Our team presented results from three of the program’s case studies (Brazil Nut, Fire and Haze, and Poverty and Environment Network). Workshop participants shared feedback and provided input to validate results.

KNOWFOR is a $38 million knowledge program funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID). KNOWFOR also forms part of the International Climate Fund’s forests portfolio. The portfolio places emphasis on improving the design, monitoring, evaluation learning, and gender empowerment of research. These emphases aim to encourage investment in better research management and planning for knowledge use. Moreover, they aim to stimulate more deliberate learning and reflection.

KNOWFOR constitutes a partnership between the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the World Bank Program of Forests (PROFOR). The collaborative advantage of these international organizations enables each to leverage their comparative strengths and networks to maximize knowledge uptake.

KNOWFOR provided the opportunity for strategic collaboration between CIFOR and the Sustainability Research Effectiveness (SRE) Program. Our team provided support to data collection, analysis, and reporting of the evaluation of three completed research projects. Find the main lessons learned from the case studies validated in the sense-making process summarized below.

Brazil Nut Project

From this case, we learned the project comprised transdisciplinary elements and realized a substantial part of the intended outcomes. As a result, the project contributed to the forest management guidelines, but failed to sustain long-term influence. We identified ‘engagement and communication with stakeholders’ to be key factors underpinning the achievement of outcomes. Low levels of participation and collaboration with regional stakeholders reduced perceptions of project legitimacy and relevance. These two transdisciplinary principles underpin effective research processes, so the project could have done better on these aspects. Deeper analysis on the use of scientific knowledge and specific factors affecting the policy process indicated that different perceptions about scientific knowledge among stakeholders influence how scientific knowledge is valued and used. Better stakeholder integration and comprehensive understanding of the problem context would otherwise improve project results. Moreover, integration of these aspects in project design and implementation increase likelihood for research to inform policy-making.

Fire and Haze Project

For the Fire and Haze case, a successful outcome of the project came down to serendipitous factors. The project’s timing aligned with the fire crisis of 2015 and coincided with the public’s call for presidential action. As a result, the government acknowledged the need for the establishment of new national bodies to address the issues. This stimulated responses to address the knowledge gap on how to respond to the crisis. The lead researcher from CIFOR leveraged strong knowledge of fire and haze, in addition to personal networks with key influencers in the policy realm, to support CIFOR’s initiative in a timely manner. This highlights the value of positioning key scientists as high-profile experts on emerging issues featured on the political agenda. However, the project conducted complementary multi-disciplinary research at different time-frames, missing the opportunity to capitalize on all aspects of the issue.

Poverty and Environment Network Project

The final case highlighted the multiple and complementary ways in which research can contribute to change. Owing to the broad-based scientific engagement at early stages of project design, the collaborative network established by the project generated extensive exposure to and understanding of the project, and ultimately perpetuated use. Even in the demand-driven context in which the project operated, it takes a long time (sometimes over 10 years) for research to become mainstream in practice and have significant influence over the development and realization of outcomes.

As a result of these evaluations and the sense-making process, CIFOR re-engaged in informed reflection for future research development. Our team will continue to support this collaboration by conducting more in-depth analyses of the cases.

Learn more about KNOWFOR and our case studies on research-for-development research. Read more news posts from the Sustainability Research Effectiveness Program.


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