Strategies to promote the utilization of USAID-funded research results
This brief offers a set of strategies to help individuals and teams who produce USAID-funded research to position their findings to be used by key stakeholders within and external to USAID. It focuses, therefore, on strategies for promoting research uptake, which is distinct from, but related to, research communication and dissemination.
Most USAID-funded research projects create communication plans that describe how research teams will communicate with USAID and other relevant stakeholders while conducting research and after the teams have identified findings. Communicating progress during research implementation and sharing findings after they have been identified does not ensure, however, that the stakeholders the research is intended to influence will use the findings. For research uptake to occur—and for research to achieve its desired policy, program, or other influence objectives—research teams should incorporate uptake-focused strategies into a project’s communications and implementation plans from the outset.
This document offers a set of such strategies drawn from conversational interviews the author conducted with contacts in various positions within USAID during the fall of 2019. Insights from these conversations are complemented with recommendations from other relevant sources, including guidance on research uptake provided by other funding organizations and academic researchers working in centers focused on research utilization among policymakers and practitioners.
The consensus among these sources is that research uptake will be difficult to achieve if it is only considered after the team has conducted research. Rather, to ensure success, teams should consider uptake from the outset of research projects and keep uptake a central focus throughout the life of the project. The strategies presented in this brief are, therefore, organized according to the phases of the research cycle, with strategies that teams should pursue during the research design and planning phase listed first, followed by strategies for the research implementation phase, and research dissemination phase. The basic strategies highlighted in each phase are intended to provide teams with a starting point for creating more tailored research uptake plans.
Elizabeth Hoffecker, Research Scientist and Group Lead, MIT Local Innovation Group