INVESTING IN KNOWLEDGE: IDRC's support for a generation of experts pays off

November 05, 2010
Angela Pereira
For nearly 40 years, Canada's International Development Research Cenre (IDRC) has not only supported research efforts across the developing world, it has also nurtured successive generations of young scholars through its Centre Training Awards Program (CTAP). A recent international tracer study determined where some of these alumni are now, and confirmed IDRC's longstanding contribution to building research capacity in the developing world.
An impressive array of names, titles, and accomplishments emerge when you scratch the surface of IDRC’s contribution to international development through its Centre Training and Awards Program (CTAP).

Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization, John Atta-Mills, recently elected President of Ghana, Mohamed Sahnoun, former President of Initiatives of Change International, and many other international figures were once supported by CTAP in their education or research.

“IDRC believes that providing support to individuals at a critical time in their professional development can foster the growth of a generation of policymakers, researchers, and development practitioners who understand the importance of research for development,” says Tim Dottridge, Director of IDRC’s Special Initiatives Division, which manages CTAP.

Since 1971, IDRC has enabled more than 3 000 students to pursue education or research opportunities, in their own countries or elsewhere. In 2007, IDRC embarked on an International Tracer Study to track the current location and responsibilities of former awardees from developing countries, the majority of whom were supported to study at North American and European institutions.

Staff from IDRC’s regional offices took on the task of tracking down about 2 000 students, researchers, and administrators who received awards between 1971 and 1992. These awards include project/program-related awards and institution development awards; research fellowships for senior researchers; and the former Pearson Fellowships, which provided training in public administration and professional development.

“We felt it was important to assess the impact of IDRC support on individuals, their home regions, and international development in general,” says Rita Bowry, Senior Program Specialist at CTAP.

The Results:
The six-month survey located some 600 former awardees in Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia.

The vast majority surveyed returned home after completing their studies in North America or Europe, thus contributing to research capacity and development efforts in their home regions.

Many individuals have reached high positions as government officials, organization leaders, and university professors; and many work in national, regional, and international organizations.

Where former awardees work:
The majority of former awardees found employment in research and education environments – either in universities or research centres. Working as professors, deans, research heads, and program officers, they continued to conduct and lead research on development issues.

Many also gravitated to the public service or development work in general – within government, or with international and national organizations. A smaller number are engaged in the private sector or as consultants (see chart).

Below is a sample of former awardees supported by IDRC:

Jacinta Muteshi
Chairperson, National Commission on Gender and Development Kenya

John Atta Mills
Elected President of Ghana January 2009; former Vice-President for eight years Ghana

Kane, Ousmane A.
Executive Director, African Regional Centre for Technology Senegal

Rehman Sobhan
Founder and Executive Chairman, Centre for Policy Dialogue Bangladesh

Ramalingam Parasuram
Former Minister of Agriculture and Alternate Permanent Representative to the Food and Agriculture Organization India

Middle East
Sahnoun, Mohamed
Former Senior Advisor to the Director General of UNESCO; former Ambassador to Morocco, USA, France and Germany Algeria

Antoine Zahlan
Founding Member, Arab Physical Society and Center for Arab Unity Studies Lebanon

Latin America
Eldred Roy Cayetano 
Secretary General, National Commission for UNESCO Belize

Fernando Navajas
Chief Economist and Executive Director, Latin American Economic Investigations Foundation Argentina

Moving Forward:
Several awards programs to developing country nationals were scaled back in 1992 due to budget cuts. Since then, CTAP has continued to support developing-country researchers in several other ways.

IDRC Doctoral Research Awards are open to students from developing countries already studying in Canada. The Southern Junior Researchers Awards program, launched in 2006-07, funds graduate students pursuing their studies at universities in developing countries. Over 40 research grants and scholarships have been awarded so far in sub-Saharan Africa, and the program plans to expand to Latin America and the Caribbean and to Asia. If no doctoral program is available in the region, the program will consider funding costs for study in Canada.

Five former IDRC awardees located by the tracer study talk about their career paths and the critical development issues facing their countries.
Ramón Fogel
Fogel’s innovative social science research in Paraguay has informed policymakers on rural issues and improved the lives of the rural poor.

Meena Acharya
Researcher, economist, and gender activist Meena Acharya is dedicated to ensuring economic policies benefit the most vulnerable segments of Nepalese society, particularly women.

Mohamed Halfani 
Halfani is working to ensure that policymakers in Africa and the Middle East adopt sustainable urban planning policies.

Arame Ndiaye Keita
Ndiaye Keita’s research on Africa’s ocean resources is helping fishers, families, and governments keep marine environments healthy. 

Subhi Qasem
Qasem’s expertise in managing agricultural resources and educational systems is helping Jordan meet its development challenges.