Making sense of KNOWFOR in Indonesia

Mar, 2017

BOGOR, ID Rachel Claus and Brian Belcher participated in and helped facilitate a sense-making workshop on CIFOR’s contribution to the overall KNOWFOR program held on February 27, 2017. Three of the program’s case studies (Brazil Nut, Fire and Haze, and Poverty and Environment Network) were showcased and received feedback and input to validate results.

KNOWFOR is a $38 million knowledge program funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) that forms part of the International Climate Fund forests portfolio. It places its emphasis on improving the design, monitoring, evaluation learning, and gender empowerment of research to invest in better research management and planning for knowledge use stimulated by more deliberate learning and reflection. It is a partnership between the Centre 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 three 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) team to support data collection, analysis, and reporting of the evaluation of three completed research projects. The main lessons learned from the case studies that were validated from the sense-making process are summarized as follows:

From the Brazil Nut case, we learned that the project included some elements of transdisciplinary research (TDR) and realized a substantial part of the intended outcomes achieving temporal influence in the forest management guidelines, but failing to sustain it in the long-term. Engagement and communication with stakeholders were identified as key factors underpinning the achievement of outcomes. Low levels of participation and collaboration with regional stakeholders reduced perceptions of project legitimacy and relevance, the two main TDR principles underpinning overall research effectiveness. A 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 integration of stakeholders as well as a comprehensive understanding of the problem context are needed in order to design and implement research that will more effectively inform policy-making.

For the Fire and Haze case, a successful outcome of the project was partly serendipitous. The timing of the project aligned with the fire crisis of 2015, and there was a coinciding presidential push for action from the public, a need for the establishment of new national bodies to address the issues, and a knowledge gap about how to respond to the crisis. The lead researcher leveraged strong knowledge of fire and haze in addition to personal networks with key influencers in the policy realm to support the initiative in a timely manner. This highlights the value of positioning key scientists as high-profile experts around emerging knowledge on issues high on the political agenda for policy action. However, multi-disciplinary and complementary research being produced for the project at different time-frames was a missed opportunity for full representation and capitalization on all aspects of the project.

The Poverty and Environment Network case highlighted the multiple complementary ways in which research can contribute to change. Owing to the broad-based scientific engagement at the early stages of project design, the collaborative network that was established 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 engaged sense-making process, CIFOR has had the opportunity to engage in informed reflection for future research development. We are continuing this collaboration to conduct more in-depth analyses of the cases.

Learn more about KNOWFOR.

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