Delft, The Netherlands, 01 Dec 2014

Developing high societal impact proposals: perspectives on the CGIAR WLE approach

UNESCO-IHE submitted several Expressions of Interest for research for development (R4D) projects as part of the CGIAR Water Land and Ecosystems (WLE) program. Staff members and partners were selected to further develop project proposals in the Mekong, Nile Basin and East Africa focal regions in so called 'writeshops' organized by CGIAR in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in October 2014.

New project identification approach

The project identification approach the WLE programme takes is to first collect ideas through concept notes, then invite short-listed concept notes for a writeshop, and finally these selected notes are invited to submit a full proposal. Staff members Hermen Smit, Wim Douven and Abraham Mehari Haile participated in the writeshops and were very positive about this process and the outcomes.

Hermen Smit: "I found it very useful to meet WLE colleagues as well as colleagues from other projects and brainstorm together about the best to use frameworks. The aim is to build a coherent programme for the projects that participated in the writeshop in order to develop the proposal".

Wim Douven: "This interesting writeshop was a new experience for me. Its aim was on the one hand to further help align proposals with the WLE objectives and strategies, and on the other hand to seek and create synergies between the individual concept notes on similar themes or in similar regions, like in my case the Ayeyarwady river basin in Myanmar. During the writeshop we were guided in explicitly identifying outcomes, and impact pathways. Outcomes are positive changes that result from the project, e.g. use of the project's planning tool by a specific government department for improved agricultural planning. Impact pathways are descriptions of the ways in which outcomes will be reached, including communication strategies. It forced you to think differently about research, the process of doing research and its impact."

Abraham Mehari Haile: "We identified expected changes in policy, attitude, knowledge, skills and practice among each of the project outcome and beneficiaries (decision makers, donors, technical experts, private companies and NGOs, community organizations and civil societies). To realize these changes, an effective strategy was developed that combines user-specific engagement, networking and communication mechanisms".  

Research for societal impact

The objective of the CGIAR Water Land and Ecosystems (WLE) programme is to stimulate innovative thinking on agriculture, the management of natural resources, and the alleviation of poverty among men and women to improve food security and environmental protection. It does so by following the ecosystem framework and gender approach. The programme has a strong focus on research aimed at societal impact.


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