Working as a member of the Management Team with the CGIAR Challenge Programme on Water and Food (CPWF) in its final five year phase in six different river basins across the world, we were able to capture the excitement of impact based research-for-development (R4D) where researchers are real agents of change. That is, both change on the ground and change in policy.
The CPWF defined outcomes as changes in practice, in behaviour, decisions, investments, or other ways in which people choose to do things differently. This is not coercing people to do things differently, but engaging with them to help them obtain information that allows them to make informed choices because they perceive the change to be to their own advantage. R4D therefore seeks to contribute to development outcomes that are profitable, equitable, sustainable, and resilient. The CPWF used Theory of Change thinking to describe the process, which reflects an inclusive, participative, and reflective learning process.
Understanding the process of engagement is crucial. Engagement is also part of problem definition in which the CPWF encouraged stakeholders to participate to achieve a common vision of the nature of the problem, its causes and drivers, and what might be done about it.
More on Theory of Change thinking, see Boru Douthwaite’s video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YcyhrlZxo7Y