Theme 7: Capacity--Oral Sessions

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There is increasing interest in investigative processes known as “Engaged Research.” Such approaches include aspects of Farming Systems Research & Extension, Participatory Rural Appraisal, Participatory Action Research, and Innovation Systems. Engaged Research—a term recently popular in the USA—is founded on long-term relationships among stakeholders and emphasizes problem-solving based on co-production of knowledge. We are now at a time when science-based knowledge should be implemented to improve the lives of the rural poor under the triple threat of poverty, natural resource degradation, and climate change. Traditional ways of conducting applied, academic study can be reconfigured to this end, improving research effectiveness beyond publications. The objective of this paper is to review the author’s experiences concerning four Engaged-Research projects and summarize lessons learned. Projects include improving risk management among pastoralists in Ethiopia as well as enhancing climate-change adaptation among pastoralists and small-holder farmers in Ethiopia, Nepal, and Uganda. Project outcomes have included economic diversification of households, empowerment of women, and water-resource development in addition to research outputs. Key elements of this approach include: (1) Joint identification of major problems and solutions; (2) trust building among stakeholders; (3) peer-to-peer learning; (4) investments to build human and social capital; and (5) facilitating growth of stakeholder self-help networks. Given there are typically positive effects of Engaged Research on stakeholders, why aren’t such approaches more common? The answer lies in the narrow incentives governing academia and development organizations; such incentives reward traditional ways of working rather than reflecting development impacts in the field. Other obstacles include the transaction costs and need for sustained funding in support of engaged activity from beginning to the end of a project. Researchers in developing nations can become involved in Engaged Research. How such scientists can navigate traditional incentive structures and enhance fund-raising for Engaged Research are reviewed.

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Engaged Research Can Advance Knowledge AND Promote Positive Change among the Rural Poor

There is increasing interest in investigative processes known as “Engaged Research.” Such approaches include aspects of Farming Systems Research & Extension, Participatory Rural Appraisal, Participatory Action Research, and Innovation Systems. Engaged Research—a term recently popular in the USA—is founded on long-term relationships among stakeholders and emphasizes problem-solving based on co-production of knowledge. We are now at a time when science-based knowledge should be implemented to improve the lives of the rural poor under the triple threat of poverty, natural resource degradation, and climate change. Traditional ways of conducting applied, academic study can be reconfigured to this end, improving research effectiveness beyond publications. The objective of this paper is to review the author’s experiences concerning four Engaged-Research projects and summarize lessons learned. Projects include improving risk management among pastoralists in Ethiopia as well as enhancing climate-change adaptation among pastoralists and small-holder farmers in Ethiopia, Nepal, and Uganda. Project outcomes have included economic diversification of households, empowerment of women, and water-resource development in addition to research outputs. Key elements of this approach include: (1) Joint identification of major problems and solutions; (2) trust building among stakeholders; (3) peer-to-peer learning; (4) investments to build human and social capital; and (5) facilitating growth of stakeholder self-help networks. Given there are typically positive effects of Engaged Research on stakeholders, why aren’t such approaches more common? The answer lies in the narrow incentives governing academia and development organizations; such incentives reward traditional ways of working rather than reflecting development impacts in the field. Other obstacles include the transaction costs and need for sustained funding in support of engaged activity from beginning to the end of a project. Researchers in developing nations can become involved in Engaged Research. How such scientists can navigate traditional incentive structures and enhance fund-raising for Engaged Research are reviewed.