To support IDRC’s learning by capturing insights on how the strategic decisions taken by IDRC in the design and delivery phases of the Covid-19 Response for Equity (CORE) programme supported Southern-led research and engagement.
Many funders and development agencies are keen to learn lessons from their experience of funding rapid and responsive research mechanisms.
Understanding how best to adapt their existing systems and protocols to deliver a fast and flexible response is vital to help better prepare for future crises.
This learning activity, embedded within the IDRC-funded Covid-19 Response for Equity (CORE) programme took place during the global coronavirus pandemic.
Procurement systems, research methods and the engagement of evidence with policy and practice needed to evolve quickly to cope with pandemic restrictions, volatile policy spaces and the urgent need for evidence on the impact of Covid on the most vulnerable.
The learning activity was delivered by IDS staff who were already engaged in the wider CORE programme. They were well positioned to build upon existing relationships with IDRC and CORE project partners and knowledge of CORE and its objectives.
They applied the IDS ‘learning journey’ methodology. Learning journeys build on IDS’ experience of similar activities with other donors and the institute’s many years at the forefront of participatory learning approaches.
Learning journeys are collaborative across disciplines, usually involve other government departments and/or development partners, and provide spaces for discussion and reflection linked to real case working scenarios and application. They are facilitated by thematic experts and supported by evidence syntheses and learning products to increase uptake.
Learning journeys are designed to explore and respond to a specific complex issue or challenge. They place strong emphasis on building ownership with key stakeholders to support the relevance and utility of the learning process.
This particular learning journey involved: online meetings with IDRC staff, semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions with CORE partners and IDRC staff, research analysis, the production of a final report, and a knowledge sharing event with IDRC staff.
The learning activity was delivered by members of the IDS Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Team:
The activity also involved a specially formed Reference Group comprising members of IDRC’s Policy and Evaluation Division and IDRC grant-holders.
The learning activity documented lessons learnt and actionable recommendations for future rapid response mechanisms and for more immediate application in the second phase of the CORE programme.
It created a space for IDRC to directly hear partners feedback and priorities and reflect on CORE’s value in strengthening Southern research organisations and supporting regional communities of practice to enable coordination and policy engagement.
For future initiatives, the lessons highlighted the value of multi-disciplinary research and the importance of bringing together research partners to co-design the programme and to integrate functions to promote cross-programme knowledge exchange from the outset.
The value of the learning to IDRC was reflected in their decision to extend it into the second phase of the CORE programme.