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Friday, September 23 • 8:00am - 10:00am
(REF 23126) Research-implementation organizations: do we need to define another SD actor? - Convened by the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute

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The Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) and the Swiss Commission for Research Partnerships with Developing Countries (KFPE) have recently mapped and assessed organizations with both a strong research mandate and a regular stream of project implementation and related activities, e.g., designing, implementing and/or evaluating programs. Such “research-implementation organizations” (RIOs), were assessed first in Switzerland and then in 13 African partner countries aiming to obtain information on the structure and positioning of RIOs within the sustainable development (SD) actors’ landscape and to assess their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Currently − as a complementary aspect of this work − we are capturing the perspective of selected funders towards RIOs.

Our hypothesis is that having a definition of (i) RIOs; (ii) the gap that they are filling within the spectrum of SD actors; and (iii) the types of projects they are best suited to carry forward would allow to better instrumentalize them for the advancement of the 2030 Agenda. The objective of the session is to utilize the discussion with the audience and their input to validate and, if necessary, adjust our conclusions about i-iii.

In brief, the outcomes demonstrated that having such double-competency in-house was perceived beneficial to the quality of implementation and the uptake of evidence into policy and practice in both the African and Swiss assessments. RIOs are, e.g., able to co-design research in transdisciplinary contexts making their work meaningful for policy and practice. On the downside, the multi-purpose model was described as resource-intense and difficult to manage, while ensuring high-quality standards in both activity areas – the African RIOs mostly reported this. Another issue raised by African RIOs was the threat arising from choosing individual consultants over an institutionalized mandate in national and international project implementation activities, leading to potential losses of institutional income and capacity-building opportunities. A high job satisfaction was reported from both African and Swiss RIOs when combining research with implementation activities, albeit in Switzerland, a scarcity of positions and career opportunities was lamented. RIOs from both settings perceived the misalignment of research and implementation funding as burdensome but named funders and funding instruments that would accommodate an entire innovation-to-implementation cycle. The funders' view is currently being assessed and will feature in the proposed session.

Revolving around the RIO study series and its current and expected outcomes, we will hold a session that covers different aspects of the topic:
1) Introduction of the KFPE mandate and activities leading up to the research on RIOs (Fabian Käser, 15m including Q&A)
2) Main outcomes of the research series on RIO's in Africa, Switzerland and the funders’ perspective (Jasmina Saric, 20m including Q&A)
3) Swiss TPH − a Swiss RIO − where does it stand within the spectrum of sustainable development actors and what gaps does it fill? (Jürg Utzinger, 15m including Q&A)
4) Combining research and implementation in-house for advancing sustainable development in Ethiopia and beyond, at the Water and Land Resource Centre (Gete Zeleke, 15m including Q&A)
5) The importance of mentorship between RIOs: a Kenyan−Swiss transformative research partnership (Boniface Kiteme and Isabelle Providoli, 15m including Q&A)
6) Reflections on the role of RIOs for sustainable development without poverty by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (Nathalie Wyser, 15m including Q&A)
7) Discussion and participant input on policy recommendations (15m)

We expect two immediate outcomes from this proposed session at the SSUNGA. First, to raise awareness of the operational models of this multi-purpose SD actor and offer a baseline for conversations between RIOs and funders and for exchanging experience and networking between different RIOs, nationally and internationally.
Second, we expect that our conclusions regarding the i) definition of RIOs; ii) the gaps that they are filling; and iii) the types of projects they are best suited to carry forward will be validated and fine-tuned during the exchange with the audience. The resulting conclusions will be subsequently developed into a policy document and scientific communication for funders, RIOs and the wider scientific community.

avatar for Jasmina Saric

Jasmina Saric

Scientific Collaborator, Swiss TPH
After dedicating a decade to the study of neglected tropical disease biomarkers, I have transitioned from my academic lectureship at Imperial College London to a multifaceted role at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute. This new position combines research, teaching and... Read More →
avatar for Fabian Käser

Fabian Käser

Head, KFPE
avatar for Jürg Utzinger

Jürg Utzinger

Professor, Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute
avatar for Isabelle Providoli

Isabelle Providoli

Senior Research Scientist, Centre for Development and Environment (CDE), University of Bern
I am a geographer and environmental scientist working as a Senior Research Scientist at the Centre for Development and Environment (CDE), University of Bern, Switzerland.I am specialised in natural resources management, governance, and sustainable development, and I coordinate several... Read More →
avatar for Nathalie Wyser Vizcarra

Nathalie Wyser Vizcarra

Policy Advisor Research, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation

Friday September 23, 2022 8:00am - 10:00am EDT