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Learning Report

Insights for influence: Understanding impact pathways in crisis response

Jo Carpenter
Institute of Development Studies
Joe Taylor
Institute of Development Studies
Louise Clark
Institute of Development Studies

This report presents an overview of impact pathways and lessons learnt from a selection of the projects chosen to represent the diversity of approaches to engage policymakers, civil society, and the media to generate and share evidence of the effect of the pandemic on diverse vulnerable groups.

The Covid-19 Responses for Equity (CORE) programme was a three-year initiative funded by the Canadian International Development Research Centre (IDRC) that brought together 20 projects from across the global South to understand the socioeconomic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, improve existing responses, and generate better policy options for recovery.

The research covered 42 countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East to understand the ways in which the pandemic affected the most vulnerable people and regions, and deepened existing vulnerabilities. Research projects covered a broad range of themes, including macroeconomic policies for support and recovery; supporting essential economic activity and protecting informal businesses, small producers, and women workers; and promoting democratic governance to strengthen accountability, social inclusion, and civil engagement.

The Institute of Development Studies (IDS) provided knowledge translation (KT) support to CORE research partners to maximise the learning generated across the research portfolio and deepen engagement with governments, civil society, and the scientific community. As part of this support, the IDS KT team worked with CORE project teams to reconstruct and reflect on their impact pathways to facilitate South-South knowledge exchange on effective strategies for research impact, and share learning on how the CORE cohort has influenced policy and delivered change.

SUMMARY OF FINDINGS

The development of the CORE project impact pathways has highlighted the breadth and depth of impact that the CORE programme cohort has produced. The documentation of these impact pathways is part of the legacy of the CORE programme to demonstrate the range of innovative approaches used to engage decision makers and bring community voices into research processes against the challenging backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic. Looking ahead, it is hoped that they will also provide a reference point for future research programmes and inspire other Southern thinktanks and research institutions to innovate with their engagement strategies, and embed strategies to build the legitimacy and ownership of research processes.

The CORE project experiences highlighted the key role that research can play in a crisis, and how research institutes can leverage their position and connections to inform, accompany, and evaluate government responses. The examples presented in this report demonstrate the added value of working closely with government structures at national, provincial, and municipal levels to align research questions with political priorities, creating space for dialogue and discussion.

The impact pathways also demonstrated the rich CORE experience of strengthening research processes through alliances with civil society to build legitimacy and embed evidence within social realities, using the research process to create a voice for these groups, deliver processes to organise and prioritise their needs, and increase their visibility in policy conversations.

Another important legacy of the CORE programme is the research and engagement capacity that has been strengthened across the global South. Many CORE projects have worked with local partners across the globe with a strong emphasis on facilitating relationships among national research teams, guaranteeing quality across different contexts and challenges, and supporting knowledge exchange between diverse experiences. These research teams have not only delivered compelling research evidence in the most adverse data collection conditions of repeated lockdowns and ongoing uncertainty; they have also delivered innovative engagement strategies that have established new relationships and alliances that have strong potential to continue beyond CORE. This unique collection of impact pathways has aimed to capture and document these innovations and lessons learnt as both a legacy of the CORE programme and a practical resource for future research initiatives.

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Clark, L.; Carpenter, J. and Taylor, J. (2023) Insights for Influence: Understanding Impact Pathways in Crisis Response, Brighton: Institute of Development Studies, DOI: 10.19088/CORE.2023.016