This month, 50 development researchers, practitioners, and donors from an array of influential institutions came together at MIT’s D-Lab to jointly develop guiding principles for “Lean Research,” a human-centered approach to development research that is respectful, relevant, rigorous, and right-sized.
The daylong convening was organized by the International Development Innovation Network (IDIN), the Comprehensive Initiative on Technology Evaluation (CITE), and D-Lab Scale-Ups in partnership with faculty members at Tufts University’s Fletcher School. Participants included representatives from J-PAL, the Legatum Center at MIT, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, USAID’s Global Development Lab, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the SEEP Network, Oxfam, Save the Children, MasterCard Center for Inclusive Growth, Bankable Frontier Associates, and others.
Our interest in creating an initiative on lean research stems from our shared observation that the act of research itself is often a significant intervention into the lives of the people we are researching. If our programs and projects in development are intended to improve people’s wellbeing, our research into the effectiveness of those programs should be done in a way that also produces positive impacts for those who participate. Lean research places the positive experience of the research participant at the center of the research design and employs “right-sized” methods and protocol that do only what is actually necessary to produce rigorous findings that are actionable and have relevance to the key stakeholders in the research process.
The daylong convening generated significant interest in the lean research framework, with participants calling for the development of lean research standards that their organizations can sign onto and suggesting a number of concrete steps to move the initiative forward. These include continuing to refine the lean research framework, potentially developing a prize in lean research, and developing a platform to enable us to work together on implementing these principles into our research endeavors.
You can read more about lean research and the guiding principles we developed at the convening in this post by co-organizer Kim Wilson. You can also read about the event from the perspective of participant Alex Counts, president and CEO of the Grameen Foundation, who shares his thoughts on next steps on his blog.
If you are interested in learning more about Lean Research or joining the group that is working to move this initiative forward, please contact IDIN's Research Coordinator, Elizabeth Hoffecker Moreno.