lucid moments

Since these don’t come very often, I might as well have them documented every time they do. Below are posts I contributed a couple of hours ago to a class forum on social research:

“I am quite certain that the academics in us see very clearly how research has been, and remains to be, vital in ensuring the constant (positive) evolution of social work practice and in triggering social change. The challenge, in practical reality, is demonstrating this significance and pointing decision makers and workers immersed in their respective programs to the value of embracing sound research not as an add-on, but an organic component of their occupation. For instance, I cannot even begin to imagine how much resource has been wasted on a global scale, throughout history, over under-researched development programs that have been whimsically designed, inappropriately implemented, monitored and evaluated using the wrong indicators, and then lifted like a universal formula and/or recycled over and over, to the detriment of the communities and the people whose development they are supposed to facilitate.

“Development programs can stand to benefit a great deal from social research, particularly if it is scientifically undertaken and not manipulated to provide “data” supporting preconceived notions held by the users of the data, or pre-decided strategies of purse-handlers. Thus I believe that a researcher’s job goes beyond the already-difficult task of developing and implementing sound research; it further entails advocacy, to promote appreciation among development practitioners of the great difference made by a strong knowledge base in crafting and continually enhancing programs and solutions that can actually lead to visible social change.”

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“If I may just expound on this a bit more…

“I know that many good research projects have produced laudable policy and/or programmatic recommendations in support of development. I have seen researches produce data that helped plot or change the course of entire organizations. Prerequisites to these efforts have been the availability of human and material resources: competent (armed with knowledge, skills, scientific attitude and integrity) researchers, and funding support. For the second to be available, the buy-in of stakeholders (particularly the purse-holders) must be secured, and that can only happen when the value of a proposed research undertaking is established and clearly presented.

“Still, even in the case of well-funded/supported researches, actual policy and programmatic impact have often fallen far short of what researchers had anticipated.  I risk sounding melodramatic, but I really find it heartbreaking when resources are poured out and well-meaning researchers give years of their lives to undertake very good research that only ends up in the bookshelves of office and school libraries, or simply submitted to donors for compliance, its results never truly impacting on policies and programs being implemented in the real world. I believe that the ultimate satisfaction of a researcher who values producing work of significance comes not in receiving funds for his proposed study (though that is always very, very happy news), or even in having his researches published or the results of his arduous efforts presented to a panel of policy makers, but in seeing the fruit of his labor translated into actual changes in society, or at least in the way things are done, be it in a large or small scale.

“In my first couple of weeks in my current job I was shown the results of a study that was undertaken by my organization on a global scale. The findings and recommendations were groundbreaking, so naturally my first question was, “How have the results of this research been used?” The answer was that they haven’t, for some reason or other. In fact the organization published a revised operations manual about a year after that study was completed, and the study results appear not to have influenced it the least bit. Tragic, really.”

I think I was actually a bit coherent here 🙂

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