Developing capacities for better research uptake: the experience of ODI’s Research and Policy in Development programme

Working and discussion papers
December 2011
Enrique Mendizabal, Ajoy Datta and John Young

Over the past decade funders have, increasingly, demanded that development and poverty reduction goals be informed by research-based evidence. As a result, there has been a growing focus on developing the capacities of think tanks, networks, policy-makers and donors to generate such evidence. In response, the Research and Policy in Development (RAPID) programme at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) has supported capacity-building to make better use of research in informing policies and practices. To date, little published material has assessed this work.

This Background Note aims to fill this gap and provide a candid analysis of RAPID’s work to date, ahead of the programme’s tenth anniversary in 2012. It draws on the experience of RAPID staff, project reviews and reports to key funders, including the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC). We focus on the process, rather than impact (beyond changes among those that we have worked with directly). We provide a brief history of the RAPID programme, then outline RAPID’s evolving capacity development work in four key dimensions:

  • the issues or themes RAPID has worked on
  • the activities through which capacity development has been delivered
  • the mode in which support has been provided
  • how RAPID has structured itself to deliver such support.
The final section draws lessons from RAPID’s work and concludes with a set of recommendations.Ahead of its tenth anniversary, this background notes revisits RAPID’s work on capacity development and summaries key lessons learned.