Using the case study of the Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index (HANCI), this article seeks to answer key questions relating to the conceptualisation and operationalisation of engaged excellence, exploring the tensions between research and policy advocacy.
While the concept of ‘engaged excellence’ recognises that excellence can be constituted by high‑quality research as well as by research that supports efforts to influence policy, it could be more specific in taking position on discussions that situate these to be mutually incompatible.
Evidence from multiple contexts has shown that research is much more likely to influence policy if researchers engage with civil society. Research for international development, which explicitly aims to reduce inequalities, accelerate sustainability, and build more inclusive societies, can gain from active engagement with policy advocates. It is a false dichotomy to separate out research from research for advocacy, and there is much to be gained from such a collaboration.