Capitalising on research and translating it into action

Nina Gora Refugees and IDPs, Research

Nina Gora, Gender lead at Oxfam in Greece, shares approaches for meaningful research dissemination that helps to reduce duplication and leads to collective action.

The majority of humanitarian and development proposals and subsequent programmes contain a research or assessment component. Whether intended to better understand the context, the communities with which we work or the approaches we have tried, or hope to try, research is a time consuming and often very expensive activity, with potentially harmful implications.

With multiple aid agencies conducting research in the same target community, we regularly witness duplication of efforts resulting in research fatigue amongst communities. The act of being repeatedly interviewed and consulted by various agencies can be harmful for the relationship between the agencies and communities. As one Syrian man in a camp in Greece explained, “all of you come here, asking the same questions and nothing changes. You’re all the same – some of you just come with your laptops and others come with their paper and pen”.

The value of research dissemination

It’s important to recognise that consultation and discussion with communities can raise expectations and hopes and that in some cases the agency is unable to meet them. It is therefore especially important that agencies avoid duplication, to minimise the risk.

The solution to duplication is for research (including assessments) to be made available and circulated between aid agencies that intend to engage in programming or advocacy in the target area.

This wider dissemination of research has four substantial benefits:

  1. Cost effective: money is saved when one agency rather than three agencies engage a consultant/research team
  2. Eliminates research fatigue: rather than over-assessing communities, they are engaged in a meaningful way by just one trained research team
  3. Enables common understanding: having one set of findings and recommendations enables a commonly shared understanding of the communities’ needs and interests, resulting in a standardised response
  4. Amplifies key messages: dissemination of research supports advocacy efforts both through the simple reinforcement of key messages and the development of a strong evidence base to substantiate key asks

Recognising this, the question for researchers and agencies commissioning the research then becomes of how to share the information effectively. One method is online distribution – simply emailing the research to other agencies. The following example from Oxfam in Greece outlines how this can be taken further.

The solution to duplication is for research to be made available

Approaches for meaningful dissemination

Oxfam in Greece recently conducted a Gender Analysis in the inception phase of an ECHO-funded programme implemented in Epirus region. It focused on the gender differences in the situation of migrants and refugees in Greece and the specific vulnerabilities and capacities of women and men. From the start it was intended to inform Oxfam’s response in the country, as well as that of other agencies. Read the report.

Recognising that other women’s rights related research was being conducted in Greece on different – though interconnected – themes, Oxfam partnered with UNFPA to co-author a Women’s Rights Briefing Paper¬†(PDF, 480 KB) on the situation of refugee and migrant women in Greece. It is a synthesis of all women’s rights and gender related research and assessments in Greece, including Oxfam’s own Gender Analysis. The briefing paper was created to help enable colleagues with limited time to access the critical information from longer reports including; Oxfam’s Gender Analysis, The Situation of Refugees and Migrants in Greece, the Women’s Refugee Commission¬†(WRC) report, EU-Turkey Agreement Failing Refugee Women and Girls (PDF, 13.3 MB), and the International Medical Corps Gender-based Violence assessment (publication pending).

The briefing paper, which recognises the different ways in which people absorb and retain information and the need to use the research to advocate for a more gendered response, was launched at a Roundtable on Women’s Rights. The event was attended by policy makers and practitioners, and critically, the Greek Government and provided a platform for the ¬†agencies that had conducted research in Greece to present their key findings and recommendations.

Research as a springboard for change

Since research commonly involves direct feedback from communities, soliciting their time, opinions, and concerns, it is imperative that aid agencies translate the research into action. The round-table therefore concluded with a commitment by all actors to develop and sign onto a Call to Action to Advance Women’s Rights in the Greece Response in 2017 . This Call to Action (publication pending) is informed by the recommendations from the various research pieces and the discussion at the round-table.

By consolidating various agencies’ research into an accessible briefing paper, organising a round-table to present the research and using the opportunity to develop a nation-wide call to action allows Oxfam to capitalise on its research. The approach ensures that the research has value and utility beyond our organisation and can benefit the wider response, ultimately, we hope, transforming the way in which women’s rights and gender equality are considered and addressed.


Ahmed Elassal