Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Welcome to the Impact and Learning blog!

By Simon Batchelor

As Team Leader for the Impact and learning Team, I would like to welcome any readers to this first entry!   

We have been running a private blog among ourselves for a while, and we decided that a public one might be useful.  Useful to collect all those interesting thoughts that happen in conversations and then never get followed through (mainly due to time!) and developed into a publishable documents. So this Blog will be a lot of (probably slightly) random thoughts about our work.  

What is our work?  You can find a summary on the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) website

Basically we are focused on the arena of getting Research (Evidence) used in Policy Making.  We are more than aware of the difficulties of policy making, how it’s a messy process, how you have to look at Windows of Opportunity, and all the nuances of the political economy.  We are increasingly aware of the role of Knowledge Intermediaries – and how they have a slightly different role than Research Communications.   

We work here at IDS with both Research Programme Consortia which have Research Communication built into the programme plan and are very focused on Research Uptake, and with IDS Knowledge Services

IDS Knowledge Services run several projects which look at providing access to research on development and stimulating demand for it, so as to inform “evidence-based decision making”. Many of projects are supported by DFID (thank you, DFID!) through the Mobilising Knowledge for Development (MK4D) programme, with which we work very closely. MK4D involves some very cool work, such as the Library’s (BLDS) information literacy courses aimed at researches and decision makers – I recommend their recent conference document

Of course at this stage, the first blog entry, I don’t know whether to make a personal observation or some official overview.  I think the webpages probably tell you enough about our general work, so let me make one observation about some upcoming results and data...   

We have been conducting research in 6 countries (Ethiopia, Kenya, India, Nepal, Ghana, Bangladesh) among policy makers about their use of Information and Communication Technologies.  It’s not been an easy process – policymakers by definition are important people who have very limited free time.  They have been very gracious and we have almost 100 face to face interviews from each country – interviews that cover their use of technology, their access and use of various information sources, and their intended use of some of the new technology pathways.  We don’t have the data yet – and you might have noticed this is just a teaser to get you to revisit our webpages and blog for the results in the coming months.  However I am really looking forward to the analysis.  Do policy makers search the internet themselves or do they ask an assistant to do it?  Are they now using Smart phones for more than voice and text?  Have you ever wondered what proportion are actually on Facebook?

Below is a snap-shot of some of the data that is coming through from this study - it's only preliminary findings at the moment, so please don't cite this!

Sorry this figure is a preliminary output of an incomplete study - not for citation

I suspect the analysis will show its very contextual with connectivity and age being the main variables – but what’s important to me is that we will actually have some solid data rather than making (an informed) guess from personal experience.

So I hope you will return to find out how that programme of work develops, and to glance at other thoughts from the team.  Welcome.