Monday, April 12, 2010

Who should be the advocate?

This is in direct response to Research and Advocacy Fund Pakistan's call for proposal for research and advocacy projects in Pakistan. The proposition begs the question to learn about what has happened so far to the advocacy recommendations. To what extent the research has been used in advocacy campaigns for policy or program and have materialized into the needed change.

Moreover, there is always a gap between the group conducting the research and the group who are capable and/or are interested in doing the advocacy part. It is rare to see a breed of researchers who are interested and also skilled in such utilizing the findings of their research for advocacy. I think the reasons behind such a gap are lack of realization on the researchers part that research itself is not an end in itself and just "informing" policy makers does not do the job. Secondly usually research grants do not include advocacy/research utilization component and hence researchers keep on jumping from one research project to another without ever thinking about using the results to their full extent. Thirdly, even if researchers are aware of the need of advocacy and also have the resources they may not be capable to do it on their own. In that case if an advocacy firm takes on an issue (such as abortion, emergency contraceptive pill) they may be strong in all aspects of building a campaign but may not know the technical aspects of the issue. Therefore, I think, in general, all research projects should include a component of utilization of findings and the project should not be considered complete till results are shared with with all the macro and micro stakeholders. Moreover, all project proposals should provide benchmarks and goals about advocacy once the results are finalized with clear indication of the responsibilities and time line.

And I think for real advocacy and campaigns which work, the researchers, program managers and communication/advocacy specialists have to join hands.

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