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Follow the Knowledge: Uptake 2019

12 mei 2020

The importance of research and learning in international development programmes has been emphasised by funders, practitioners, and academics alike. In the Netherlands, the Dialogue and Dissent (D&D) strategic partnership by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for example, even invested five Knowledge Platforms to deepen knowledge and support research in the international development sector. Every Voice Counts (EVC) is one of the D&D partnerships, and we have also invested heavily in generating and sharing knowledge through research in our programme.

In 2019, we engaged in two significant research undertakings of which we tracked the uptake and impact both in the Netherlands and in our programme countries:

  • The Pathways for Social Inclusion investigated the extent to which women and girls access, participate in, and influence local governance processes in fragile and conflict-affected settings. The goal of the study was to understand the pathways and factors that enable women and girls to be effectively included in local government budgeting and planning processes.
  • The Social Norms and Practices Affecting Public Authorities explored key social norms and related practices of public authorities related to accountability, inclusivity, transparency, and responsiveness that impact inclusive governance through guiding the behaviours of powerholders, decision-makers, and the community.


These studies were both released toward the end of 2019, in October. Between their release date and April 2020, in the Netherlands, the studies inspired (directly or collaboratively):

  • 5 blogs
  • 3 events
  • 2 partnerships

We know that at least nearly 600 (unique) individuals viewed the reports and over 100 attended events where the reports were presented. We were also able to grow two great partnerships here in the Netherlands and abroad. For example, the Spindle Lab “Norms in Practice” developed as a result of EVC launching the study on social norms. With 10 organisations involved in this partnership, and the membership within the wider community of Partos, this collaboration is only beginning to realise its impact.

Why does this knowledge matter?

Well, if we truly believe in the value of knowledge and we invest resources into learning, we must be equally inspired to ensure our knowledge reaches the people who may benefit. We cannot simply stop at doing the research and posting it, we must go beyond and position ourselves to share learnings in the best possible ways.

Did development practitioners use the knowledge generated throught our studies? 

We reached out to our colleagues in our EVC countries (Afghanistan, Burundi, Pakistan, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan) to see if and how they utilised the learnings. They indicated that the studies fed into the following:

  • 15 events
  • 7 briefings or policy documents shared with decision-makers
  • 10 existing interventions adapted, resulting in Theory of Change assumptions to be reviewed
  • 8 new interventions designed, contributing toward signs of change in social norms and practices (e.g., through EVC’s persuasive story telling campaigns) and responsiveness and accountability of public authorities.

Who benefits from these studies?

This is where the true power of research and knowledge becomes evident. Based on what we learned in these studies, we now know that the people for whom we design and implement programmes have improved services: they are benefiting from interventions that are evidence-based to better support their needs. Also, by playing CARE’s insider and outsider roles, our influencing work is better informed, and our teams in-country are able to present evidence when meeting with policy and decision-makers. This has the potential for profound and rippling impacts if research can influence policy debates and practices of men and women targeted by our campaigns, as well as local and national government authorities.

Women’s inclusion in Rwanda and Somalia

For example, in multiple countries, the EVC staff convened project stakeholders (national and local authorities, civil society organisations, and impact groups such as women and youth) in dialogues to present findings from the study.

In Rwanda, for example, as a result of presenting the findings of the Social Inclusion study to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, they committed to extend the amount of time that communities had to provide their input into the annual (Imihigo) government plans. Also, annexes were added to instructions given to local authorities to ensure the inclusion of special groups’ concerns while planning. This is a milestone victory for women’s inclusion. Having extra time to gather inputs from community members, especially special groups such as women, reduces one of the barriers for women’s inclusion in governance planning.

In Somalia, for example, the findings from the study on Social Norms were utilised when they designed an online and offline media campaign aimed at influencing social norms. Because their campaign was geared toward women and youth’s inclusion and influencing powerholders (i.e., clan elders), the findings from the social norms study helped shape their messaging.

Also, EVC’s partner, The Hague Academy adapted the content of their trainings for local government authorities to reflect more on social and political norms and their relevance on promoting inclusive governance.

More inclusive development programming in The Netherlands

In the Netherlands, through a practice lab of the Knowledge Platform for Security and Rule of Law (KPSRL), we shared the findings of our research and reflections on how we used these findings to review our Theory of Change assumptions related to women’s political participation; this led to openness for learning among practitioners and colleagues from the Dutch INGO community. The workshop participants shared their commitment to influence other donor governments to institutionalise the learning needed to transform systematic barriers to inclusivity and adaptability within development programming.

In the end, we learned that while we were able to make an impact with our 2019 studies, many more opportunities remain to share and to learn. We learned that these studies are not a one-way street. Rather, finding ways to present what we found and engage in dialogues to learn from others is always going to be the best way to grow knowledge.

By Katie Whipkey, Policy, Research, and Communications Officer for EVC
Every Voice Counts is a project of CARE Nederland, funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.