The benefits of reaching out to your friendly neighbour: the donor

This morning’s lively discussion about incentives for collaboration for policy influence touched on two very familiar topics: funder relations and impact, and the interesting nexus between the two.

Financial incentives and actual usage of evidence were identified early as good incentives for collaboration but the conversation quickly turned towards the mechanics of measuring impact. Some mentioned that donor reporting requirements could sometimes jeopardize the collaboration a research organisation had built with its local partner due to attribution issues. Others mentioned that the timeframe under which donors were expecting to produce impact was unrealistic as impact of policy research and research uptake often take years to materialise in concrete results. A participant asked the question “how do we measure the intangible ways in which evidence is used and conveyed to donors?”

On the other hand, the advocates for impact measurement argued that some form of accountability was needed when funds were provided as well as that impact measurement has moved from a static form of measurement to a more iterative process which provides the flexibility to reflect on what is happening on the ground and the complexity of the evidence to policy process.

The funders in the room argued that they should not be viewed simply as sources of money, a kind of ‘ATM machine’ for their grantees, but rather as partners with the potential to offer advice, guidance and capacity support. Resesarchers were urged to talk to them regularly, in particular to establish early what the expected impact of the proposed collaboration would be, in a realistic manner. A number of donors in the room talked about their ‘convening power’ which, when used effectively by researchers, could both foster cross-fertilisation of ideas and provide a marketplace for ideas to be heard and taken up by others.

Very much in line with the conversations from day one, this session reiterated the importance of building relationships in the evidence to policy ecosystem. This time, strengthening the relationship between donors and researchers to achieve better impact was the main takeaway.

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