Conference Director, Dr Vicky Johnson outlines her key learnings from the Power of Partnership: Research to Alleviate Poverty event hosted by the ESRC-DFID Strategic Partnership which took place in Delhi in December 2018.
I wanted to pick up on a word used by Rukmini Banerji from Patham, India in our last high level panel: Curiosity. She was highlighting it as critical for the transformation of power and drew on the work of philosopher Paolo Freire, in a speech where he also discusses the centrality of Tolerance in understanding poverty and inequality. Researchers, advisors, practitioners and policy makers brought both curiosity and tolerance to the 'Power of Partnership' conference in Delhi and made the most of the space to learn together.
It was an honour to act as Conference Director in this event. To work with inspired grant holders, funders open to critique and learning, alongside a diverse set of representatives from the broader global development community who generously shared their experiences and frameworks to understand impact. It was a supportive and often very practical event that examined the opportunities and difficulties in maintaining meaningful partnership.
For me the conference surfaced three main challenges that we must continue to work on:
- The extent and type of impact differed across the Poverty Alleviation portfolio and we heard how varying forms of impact are valued by different players. Action point: We need to be aware of how far funders are prepared to go beyond their different institutional agendas, even when working in partnership together.
- This conference of amazing academic researchers and partners was testament to how wise it has been for ESRC and DFID to work in partnership. Action point: We need to sustain this if we are to see similar steams of funding for rigorous but applied research in the future.
- There are still barriers to partnership for those researchers and partners in the global South. Action point: We need to be aware of the practicalities of contracts and conditions for non-academic partners and be cognoscente of the challenges they face to access opportunities or acknowledgement in publications that are often controlled in the global North. There is also a clear need to continue to build capacity and share learning amongst all of us.
Amongst the challenges there were many opportunities and I would like to highlight two positive outcomes from the conference.
- There were opportunities to create impact together. For example, the project team that I lead as PI, YOUR World Research, found research and policy partnerships that can help us to make the most of recent changes in Government. In Ethiopia a fast changing shift in the policy context, has led to a more open policy process allowing for broader policy change. Disability had been raised by youth as a reason for marginalisation and the team identified that this call from the youth needed to be addressed in more detail. At the Power of Partnership conference, the YOUR World Research Ethiopia team used the innovative Dragon’s Impact Den format to pitch with two projects working in sub-Saharan Africa with people with disability. They gained support from the Impact Initiative to integrate youth with disability and organisations working with people with disability into the YOUR World national youth seminar and to have a joint seminar with policy makers and funders in the UK. In the same way the YOUR World Nepal team will follow up with a project working with youth, culture and sports in Nepal to accelerate their impact together.
- Another important aspect of the conference was the opportunity to extend academic networks for grant holders both with other projects and with policy makers and practitioners. Another example of exciting new partnerships between academics and supported by policy makers is a cluster of projects that work in conflict affected and fragile environments on poverty alleviation. With a cross cutting theme of water to tie them together, projects with diverse research, for example on modern slavery in Cambodia, reservoir communities in Burkina Faso, environmental change in the Maldives, violence against women in Nepal and Mayanmar, resilience in Mali, pastoralists in Ethiopia, and marginalised youth facing drought in Ethiopia and landslides in earthquake regions of Nepal. These diverse projects want to come together in the autumn of 2019 and put on an exhibition of photos and other visuals, deriving from the projects. A representative from DFID also promised them a space to show the visuals and the possibility to join in with one of their brown bag lunches. So watch this space…
I am looking forward to following up with many of the inspirational speakers and researchers that participated so fully in this conference. Thank you.