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Social relationships are at the heart of knowledge for development


Future Health Systems is a research consortium working to improve access, affordability and quality of health services for the poor. We are a partnership of leading research institutes from across the globe working in a variety of contexts: in low-income countries (Bangladesh, Uganda), middle-income countries (China, India) and fragile states (Afghanistan) to build resilient health systems for the future. After a successful first five-year phase from 2006-2011 (see our success stories), we are entering a new six-year phase of research, funded mainly by UK aid.

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Social relationships are at the heart of knowledge for development

Future Health Systems

In a so-called 'post-truth' world, where experts are viewed with increasing suspicion, how do academics, practitioners and donors work together to ensure evidence informs policies and practices that have a transformative impact on people’s lives and contribute to global efforts to reduce poverty? These issues are discussed by leading social scientists, NGOs, donors and policymakers from around the globe in The Social Realities of Knowledge for Development, an edited collection of articles, launched at a high profile event convened by Institute of Development Studies, Overseas Development Institute and IIED.

Building on the ResUp MeetUp Symposium and Training Exchange co-hosted by Future Health Systems in Nairobi in February 2015, the edited collection, which is jointly funded by the ESRC-DFID Impact Initiative for international development research and the Institute of Development Studies, highlights the implicit social nature of evidence-informed decision making. It brings to the fore the importance of relationships and networks throughout the process of research impact, which can be scattered and intangible.

Co-edited by Nasreen Jessani of Future Health Systems and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the collection emphasises the point that while technical capacities matter, research to policy processes are fundamentally social. Based on this, the collection identifies a number of factors that underpin the social realities of turning research knowledge into development action:

  1. Capacity of individuals and organisations in terms of knowledge and skills to engage in policy processes
  2. Individual relationships that facilitate influence and knowledge brokerage
  3. Networked relationships and group dynamics that connect up the supply of knowledge with the demand for it
  4. Social and political context, culture and norms.

Read the articles online, or dowload the full collection (PDF).