Charting the path to quality, sustainable and impactful research capacity strengthening

8 August, 2022

UKCDR report lays out recommendations for UK-funded initiatives in low- and middle-income countries

The report, ‘Research Capacity Strengthening: lessons from UK-funded initiatives in low- and middle-income countries’, collates learnings from across initiatives and disciplines and builds upon learning from UKCDR’s 2021 briefing paper mapping UK funders’ RCS investments in LMICs (2016-2021).

UKCDR defines RCS as initiatives aimed at ‘enhancing the ability and resources of individuals, institutions and/or systems to undertake, communicate and/or use high-quality research efficiently, effectively and sustainably’. RCS is crucial for both LMIC research ecosystems and the wider global development research community; when all countries can contribute towards research on global challenges, everyone benefits.

Nonetheless, disparate approaches to and understandings of RCS remain barriers to sustained progress. The report aims to bridge such gaps by consolidating learning from UK-funded RCS in LMICs from 2016-2021, providing recommendations to guide future investments and programme design, for UK funders, senior decision-makers, programme leads and practitioners in RCS and oversight bodies for global development research funding.

Drawing on insights from stakeholder interviews, a desk-based review and a learning workshop, the report provides recommendations for funders and practitioners across four areas: RCS funding models; designing RCS programmes; decision-making within funding and programmes; and monitoring, evaluation and learning.

The recommendations are underpinned by five cross-cutting enablers:

  • LMIC ownership
  • a long-term approach
  • coordination
  • partnerships and collaboration; and
  • understanding impact

These enablers provide a bedrock of best practice for approaching RCS and complement other enablers of impactful development research that UKCDR works on such as equitable partnerships and safeguarding.
This learning report is part of a UKCDR-led cross-funder review of UK-funded RCS programmes in LMICs. In October 2021 UKCDR published a briefing paper mapping the extent of UK funders’ RCS investments from 2016-2021, totalling £873 million in standalone RCS programmes and £1.2 billion in programmes that embed a significant component of RCS, alongside seven case study examples of research impact and coherence.
Looking forward, we hope this portfolio of work can help inform the design of funding calls and research programmes and contribute towards quality, sustainable and impactful RCS investments by UK funders.

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