Beyond projects - The value of the programmatic approach
ESPA found that creating an overarching programme governance structure, and a corresponding ‘central unit’ such as the ESPA Directorate, improved opportunities for development impact by:
- Enhancing the impact potential of individual projects: through targeted support, a programme-level central unit can enable project teams to identify avenues for impact that may otherwise have been missed (when research teams are too caught up in the nitty-gritty of research); provide targeted follow-up funding for projects to capitalise on impact potential; provide communication and engagement support to ensure that impact stories are documented and shared; and support with monitoring and evaluation. It is important to provide in-person support, not just written guidance.
- Facilitating collaboration and cross-fertilisation among projects: by providing support on knowledge management and communications, a central unit can ensure that lessons learned and good practices on how to ‘do’ research for impact are captured and shared effectively. This kind of additional support can help highlight options for scaling up impact and applying for joint funding: chances which may be out of reach otherwise.
- Creating aggregate, larger scale policy impact from synthesis research: a central programme director, scientific advisor and supporting unit enabled individual ESPA experts to meet to critique and cross-fertilise ideas – and provided the time and space for the main findings of the programme to be synthesised, publicised and made available in a freely accessible form to support future sustainability research.