Using research to change policy and practice: A Canadian Partnerships Research Report

June 24, 2016
Canadian Civil Society Organizations Influencing Policy and Practice

Stacie Travers | IDRC

For Canadian civil society organizations (CSOs) research is an important part of efforts to improve policy and/or practice in developing countries, an IDRC-supported study found. The study e-surveyed 162 Canadian CSOs that are engaged in international cooperation for development but don't have research as their prime mandate. The study's author, Stacie Travers, also carried out four case studies on Canadian research activities in South America to enrich the survey data.

The study found that the organizations carry out research themselves or in collaboration with others. When they collaborate, they do so more with developing-country CSOs than with any other organization. Research seems to be important to the CSOs’ work, regardless of the roles they play in international cooperation: capacity building, advocacy, or technical assistance. The more roles a CSO feels it plays, the more ways it finds to integrate research into its work.

Research findings inform the CSOs’ actions, the study points out. Save the Children Canada, for example, bases the information and advice it gives to governments on research findings. At the same time, by involving local professors and students in its research projects, the Canadian organization is strengthening their research capacity, thus meeting another of its objectives. Canadian CSOs also maximize their use of research to influence change in part through strategic alliances and partnerships. Women in Cities International, for example, partners with the Women and Habitat Network in Argentina to collect data and engage directly with local officials.

The study concludes that to encourage the use of evidence to influence policies and practices, donors need to be open to CSO research approaches. Donors must accept that CSOs combine research with other activities and design it to meet a variety of objectives like local capacity building.

Read the study: Canadian Civil Society Organizations Influencing Policy and Practice – The Role of Research

This paper is part of a series: Canadian Partnerships Research Reports. Each paper is authored by the recipient of an IDRC Research Award in IDRC's Canadian Partnerships program. Canadian Partnerships supports Canada’s growing interest in internationalizing its universities, and the trend within Canadian civil society organizations to do and use research to inform national and international policies, as well as their own programming priorities.