Over the last ten years, CPWF has developed a unique research for development approach. At the heart of this approach is the focus on identifying well-defined development challenges in clearly delineated areas, for example a river basin or an eco-region, or for a specific group such as poor women in rural areas.
This allows us to draw on subject-matter research from multiple topics and disciplines. Typically, problem-solving research also integrates policy, processes, institutional and technical innovations, across scales.
Another innovative aspect is the use of a ‘theory of change’ approach to link research to developmental outcomes. Each project and basin research program expresses its theory of change by describing pathways by which research is expected to change stakeholders’ knowledge, attitude and skills and thus trigger innovation processes ranging from people-to-people spread of technology to institutional and policy change.
This approach requires a range of partnerships working together at multiple scales. Partnerships also ensure research results are relevant and used by the actors who need them.
The main elements of the CPWF research for development approach are:
- Theory of Change/Impact pathways: define pathways for CPWF’s work. The use of impact pathways guide CPWF’s research approach and have evolved over time.
- Partnerships and Networks: the importance of working with and through partners to ensure we achieve widest possible impact. Likewise, CPWF emphasizes the need to understand mandates of different actors and entry points for ensuring research is relevant by those who need it.
- Engagement in development and policy: the art of engaging in development processes and getting decision-makers and development actors involved in the research process. CPWF recognizes that this must be done from the outset so that these actors can define and take responsibility for the research agenda.
- Adaptive management (redefining the problems): understand need to be flexible and adapt to changing circumstances. Goal posts shift, opportunities emerge, things change in unexpected and non-linear ways. CPWF’s partners and staff at all levels must be attuned to their environment, and be able to change, learn and adapt.
- Communications and Knowledge Management: importance of communicating about and for the program throughout the research process, rather than at the end. Beginning with good knowledge management processes from the outset is necessary in order to share and exchange lessons amongst project partners.
- Gender and diversity: a one-size-fits-all approach is not appropriate for diverse social, economic and ecological settings. We recognize that power relations are ingrained in all negotiation processes and solutions need to take into consideration diversity and pluralism.