About the Programme
The DRUSSA programme is a joint initiative by three partner organisations. Two of these organisations are sub-Saharan based, namely the Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology (CREST) at Stellenbosch University, and Organisation Systems Design (OSD). The third partner, the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU), is an UK-based organisation with 110 African university members. The programme is funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID).
The DRUSSA programme addresses the established demand for stronger sub-Saharan African (SSA) participation in the pro-poor development research programmes that provide local solutions to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). The DRUSSA consortium has identified the region’s research-intensive universities as institutions whose capacity to be a key resource - for international and SSA policy-makers and organisations working in the field - is under-utilised. It will focus on strengthening these universities’ capacity to engage with their national stakeholders. This is so that universities can fulfil their unique role as primary knowledge producers and key intermediary contributors to the major developmental poverty-reduction programmes in their countries and the SSA region.
The programme will focus specifically on directly strengthening Research Uptake Management capacity in twenty-four SSA universities and influencing over 110 other SSA universities to improve their capacity. Research Uptake Management is a practical, cost effective, viable and sustainable approach to getting research into use. This new university management field needs both specialist individual capacity and aligned structures, and strategic management processes to maximise the conditions for the dissemination, uptake and application of scientific evidence.
It is five years until the MDG programme ends. We need to show the benefits for Africa’s poor children, women and men. Across the development spectrum there is an urgency to realise the intentions in tangible results. Donors, for instance, are requiring more accountability for and demonstration of impact and sustainability of outcomes, whilst the financial, ethical and legal environment has become more complex. SSA governments also increasingly require that universities contribute to national socio-economic goals by providing research solutions for the full range of stakeholders, and are increasingly attaching these conditions to funding of their universities.
For a number of reasons, SSA universities’ research is not achieving its potential social impact despite their mission statements including a commitment to be socially responsive. The commitment is carried out through teaching and research activities, and also through different forms of outreach, extension, knowledge-transfer and community engagement activities. There is a gap between intention and impact, which was recently highlighted by the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town (ranked by the 2010 Times Higher Education rankings as the leading research institution on the continent) when he said, “Social responsiveness that is, ensuring the university addresses the major social challenges of the society in which it is based and engaging with the communities in which it is located is another sphere of university business, which generally does not get measured in the ranking systems.” (Statement by Dr Max Price, Sept 2010)
DFID’S Chief Scientist has stated that an important factor that limits the impact of research has been the over-attribution of importance to research for academic audiences. He said, “Research that is undertaken but only discussed in academic circles has limited impact. DFID has therefore made a major commitment to ensuring that research evidence (including results from research not funded by DFID) is available, accessible and useable amongst decision makers, practitioners and policy makers throughout the developing world, as well as in the UK”. (DFID Research Report 2009)
Another contributing factor to the gap between intention and achievement in SSA universities is that the MDG research programmes are context specific; research is locates in the areas where the beneficiaries live, but there is limited contribution by local academics. The research is carried out on the periphery of local universities’ academic and management structures by multi-national research groups whose interests are naturally confined to their own research area. The programmes’ strongest relationships may be with northern hemisphere research institutions rather than the local southern universities. The universities at which the local researchers are employed accrue little benefit from the funders’ investment in building programme-based expert capacity to get research into use. University capacity is weakened when researchers are employed by outside organisations, and in the long-term this has contributed to the “de-institutionalisation” of African universities.
There is international recognition that university “de-institutionalisation” cannot continue. “Re-institutionalising” them requires a strategy that focuses on organisation-strengthening interventions as well as building the capacity of individual scientists and research managers. Advancement of a personal career can occur at the expense of building sustainable universities, but purposeful alignment of interests ensures that there is a “co-production” of individual and institutional results. The creative effort of the research occurs within a supportive organisation and extensive knowledge networks, and in fact serves to reproduce both.
DRUSSA is a contribution toward one of the critical pathways to effective “re-institutionalisation” of SSA universities.
The programme will directly benefit twenty-four SSA universities (“Group of 24”) that are currently hosting development research programmes. The research typically address issues that affect vulnerable populations, climate, health, information, education, governance, food security, livelihoods and improved life chances for children, women and men in Africa.
As a result of the DRUSSA programme:
• In the universities there will be capacity to address the demand for context-relevant, trans- and multi-disciplinary research expertise that informs socio-economic policy and practice.
• As the outcome is achieved the overall programme will demonstrate that Research Uptake Management capacity is a key driver that enables universities to provide their stakeholders with research evidence to influence and inform important developmental outcomes.
• In the SSA region there will be improved impact of evidence-based pro-poor policies and practices that are accessible to and used by policy-makers and practitioners.
The DRUSSA Intervention
The change process provides solutions at individual, institutional and systems levels in order to achieve overall viability and impact. Each of the four work programmes attends to a specific area, and together they consolidate existing capacity to a level that can be sustained in the long-term by the universities themselves. The four work programmes are:
WP 1: Individual capacity building through two sets of course offerings, namely (1) short courses in Research Uptake and Utilisation, and (2) an MPhil in Science and Technology Studies with a specialisation in Research Uptake and Utilisation.
WP2: Organisational and institutional strengthening
WP3: The identification and execution of 10 case studies of selected development research projects in the 24 participating universities.
WP4: The creation and sustainment of a practice community thorough networking systems.
CREST is responsible for WP1 and WP3, and the ACU and OSD for WP2 and WP4 respectively.