Where We Work
Our case studies are situated around the world so that we can learn about sustainability research effectiveness in diverse contexts.
San Lorenzo & Madre de Dios, Peru
Puerto Maldonado, Peru
Baie Comeau, Canada
San Martin & Ucayali, Peru
Case Study Analyses of Applied and Transdisciplinary Research Projects
Scientific research generates new knowledge. Researchers strive for excellence by means of impact, and are accountable to their funders to demonstrate that impact. Transdisciplinary approaches are emerging in sustainability and development contexts. By placing research around the interest of stakeholders, these projects aim to co-produce more relevant and applicable knowledge. As these approaches are new, and because they engage in complex systems, it has been difficult to know what works, how and why. We are conducting a series of case study analyses to generate practical knowledge and theoretical insights about whether and how transdisciplinary research contributes to learning, change and, ultimately, impact.
Purpose: Contribute to the emerging science and practice by assessing a series of applied and transdisciplinary research projects to discover whether and how they contribute to policy and practice change. Recommend improved design, methods, and implementation of transdisciplinary and applied research.
Questions: To what extent and how are research outcomes achieved?
Method: We studied the research process, knowledge translation, research impacts, as well as drivers for and barriers to the anticipated research outcomes, using Theory of Change-based project evaluation, stakeholder interviews, and document analyses.
Current Case Studies:
New cases will be reported as they are developed.
Assessing Research Contributions to the Implementation of Agroforestry Concessions (Peru)
This case study assesses a World Agroforestry (ICRAF) research project that examined potential implementation realities of impending agroforestry concession contracts in Peru. The SUCCESS Project combined a policy and technical review of legal documents with geospatial and qualitative data collection in the regions of San Martín and Ucayali. The project worked directly with smallholders to share knowledge of the concession mechanism, understand capacities to comply, and test a new forest zoning approach. ICRAF collaborated with government actors throughout the project, and continues to engage and translate project findings to decision-makers. This case study offers an opportunity to explore how research can better inform the implementation of new policy mechanisms to support smallholder livelihoods and forest conservation through engagement and relationship-building at multiple levels.
Assessing the Multiple Pathways to Impact of the Poverty and Environment Network (International)
CIFOR’s Poverty and Environment Network (PEN) was a multi-case, global comparative study that quantified socioeconomic contributions of forests to livelihoods, developed survey tools, a comprehensive international database, built capacity among its partners, and influenced data collection practices for evidence-based forest policy. Our assessment explores the project’s multiple and interacting pathways to impact.
Assessing a Comparative Study on Land Tenure (International)
Despite decades of tenure reform in developing countries, the impact on the ground has frequently fallen short of expectations. This case study assesses CIFOR’s research on tenure reform, which investigated how regulatory frameworks, administrative management, market forces, resource systems and community attributes affect tenure reforms and implementation at the systems level, as well as what bottlenecks exist. Our assessment provides insights into how research contributes to improving tenure reform policy and implementation.
An Analysis of Research on the Political Economy of Fire and Haze (Indonesia)
Indonesia endures severe fires on an annual basis, primarily due to the deforestation of peatlands. Respiratory disease, forest loss, and the economic costs thereof have raised concerns among national policymakers. This case study investigates CIFOR’s project on Fire and Haze, which aimed to inform decision makers of the social, biophysical, and political dynamics that contribute to the problem. The project successfully shifted the policy discourse from fire suppression to prevention. Our analysis explores the political dimensions of knowledge translation.
Assessing Research Outcomes from a Project about the Sustainability of Timber Harvesting in Brazil Nut Concessions (Peru)
This case study assesses a project undertaken by CIFOR that measured the impact of selective logging on Brazil Nut production in concessions in the Peruvian Amazon in order to provide a scientific evidence base for national quotas on timber harvesting. This case gives us a unique opportunity to explore science-policy interfaces in a Latin American context, because the findings were considered in the drafting of the technical guidelines for the sustainable management of Brazil Nut concessions. Our analysis highlights the challenges of stakeholder identification and engagement when biophysical research seeks to inform policy and practice in complex socio-ecological systems.
Assessing a Participatory Partnership Project on Integrated Management of Non-Timber Forest Products and Timber for Improvements of Smallholders’ Livelihoods (Indonesia)
Despite low trade volumes of non-timber forest products, there is high growth potential for emerging niche markets. In this case study, we assess a collaborative multi-partner project led by CIFOR and ICRAF that aimed to enhance and develop smallholder’s involvement in management, production and value-added marketing of forest products across eastern Indonesia. Our assessment explores the emerging roles of research and researchers in building the capacity of local communities through participatory action research in an Indonesian context.
Previous Case Studies:
The following case studies have been assessed in order to provide reflections on the theory-based assessment approach. Overall, it was concluded that it is useful to have deliberate planning for knowledge translation. A theory of change is a good tool to guide planning, monitoring and evaluation for learning and adaptation within projects and programs. It was noted that more work needs to be done to draw on social scientific theories of knowledge translation and policy processes to develop and test more sophisticated theories of change. Download the comparative analysis here.
An Assessment of Sustainable Wetlands Adaptation and Mitigation Research (International)
The Sustainable Wetlands Adaptation and Mitigation Programme (SWAMP) started with a recognised need for increased and better scientific information about the role of tropical wetlands in carbon storage, carbon emissions, and climate change processes. It aimed to provide policy makers with credible scientific information needed to make sound decisions relating to climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies.
The assessment found that prior to SWAMP, mangrove forests, which occur along the coasts of 118 countries and comprise approximately 30-35 percent of the global area of tropical wetland forest over peat swamps alone, were overlooked in international climate change mitigation strategies; moreover, wetlands as high carbon reservoirs had not been included in the UNFCCC agenda. The SWAMP programme achieved its goals and had unexpected benefits for local communities and the private sector. SWAMP’s work on carbon quantification in wetlands has been influential in the climate change mitigation debate, demonstrating that systems covering just 3 percent of the earth’s surface store around 30 percent of the earth’s carbon stocks.
An Assessment of Research on Sustainable Forest Management (Congo Basin)
The Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) Congo Basin research comprises a portfolio of research activities on forest governance, non-timber forest products, forest economics and impacts of the informal sector and climate change undertaken by CIFOR.
The analysis found that the research had a direct influence on the international forestry agenda and policies, NGO activities, and timber company practices. The research was deemed to have made a necessary contribution to adapting international policies to the Congo Basin context. The project indirectly influenced national forest management standards.
Assessing the influence of a Global Comparative Study on REDD+ Policy (International)
This case study assessed CIFOR’s principal vehicle for research on forests and climate change mitigation, which focused on identifying challenges and providing solutions to support the design and implementation of effective, efficient, and equitable REDD+ policies and projects.
There is evidence that the program has had positive influences on capacity and on the discourse and development of improved systems for implementing REDD+ at international and national scales. These outcomes were achieved through the: 1) production of high quality independent research and publications and extended outreach; 2) development of approaches and tools such as the step-wise approach; 3) provision of expert support at the international and national level; 4) hosting of international events and training; and 5) collaboration with and capacity development of national partners.
An Assessment of Collaborative Research Initiatives to Create Networking and Social Learning Strategies in Biosphere Reserves (Canada)
Biospheres play a significant role in building sustainable communities that maintain high ecological and cultural integrity. The Canadian Biosphere Reserves Association (CBRA) and the School of Environment and Sustainability (SENS) at the University of Saskatchewan initiated a collaborative project to learn about and reflect on experiences of Canadian biosphere reserve organizations in networking and social learning, and subsequently develop strategies to more effectively achieve their mandates. Our assessment explores the social change initiated by the participatory research processes in a Canadian context.
Assessing Furniture Value Chains Research (Indonesia)
The Furniture Value Chains project was an action research project that aimed to improve value chain efficiency and enhance livelihoods of small scale furniture producers. The project focused on Jepara District in Central Java, Indonesia, which is home to around 18,000 small scale furniture makers. The research informed local policy processes to the extent that CIFOR was asked to write a “Jepara Furniture Roadmap” which was eventually enacted into law.
The evaluation found that, as an action research project, the FVC’s main impact pathway was through the establishment of a furniture association. The association became the main platform for training and facilitation activities, and served to attract the attention of the local parliament. In addition, a number of association members became champions, liaising with the local government and with the association of large-scale furniture makers. However, the assessment also found that the association became less active and weak after the project was completed, when CIFOR staff no longer played a strong supporting role. It calls for future projects to have a proper exit strategy and substantial adoption by local stakeholders to ensure sustainability.