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5 Networks

5.1 Introduction

The networks supported by Danida from 2006 to 2011 have variously evolved, merged and disbanded; this chapter documents the key findings and conclusions relating to these processes. Further details of the background to the networks are given in Chapter 2.

5.2 Relevance

The merging, discontinuation and evolution of the networks[36], which started in 2007 was driven by a need, recognised by stakeholders, for a more relevant and efficient approach to networking and interaction. This level of demand for the networks is a useful, positive proxy indicator of their relevance.

Since its formation, DDRN has provided a relevant and useful forum for research information and communication, largely responding to the needs of stakeholders and achieving most of its stated objectives[37].

DDRN has functioned as a forum in which Southern countries could articulate research demands and the broad membership of DDRN consisting of all types of stakeholders (government institutions, NGO, researchers, development practitioners, private com panies) has made it an important and highly appreciated mechanism for sharing and exchanging of research related information.

However, the broad focus of DDRN has also made it difficult to maintain the original idea behind the three networks, which was to facilitate research-based knowledge inputs into Danish development co-operation, and specifically to ensure that research findings were utilised in Danida programming and national sector programmes, this has reduced its relevance.

The DWF, which maintained its independence when DDRN was formed, continued as a relevant forum for networking among water sector stakeholders in North and South. In contrast to DDRN, the DWF has a narrower scope and focus within a more defined sector, facilitating a closer link between development research and business development.

After Danida funding to DWF was phased out, there has been a gradual shift in its focus in response to the demands of its members. In doing so DWF has become a network more of relevance to supporting and promoting the export of Danish water sector know-how and products to Asian countries, than to supporting development research within the water sector in Africa.

5.3 Effectiveness

Based on the review of the network contracts and work plans combined with personal interviews with key stakeholders from the networks, the Evaluation finds that the networks to a large extent have produced what was identified in work plans. The information provided by DDRN for example, illustrates this (see Annex I for a summary), however the targets and expectations of the work plans in terms of deliveries have not been high. Most targets were associated with events and activities and the establishment of groups and links. Although these deliverables have been beneficial for strengthening networking relations and sharing of information, there has been no real attempt made by the networks to assess the effectiveness of the channels for uptake of the research information produced by, and through, them.

In merging the networks and broadening its technical base, DDRN became much more of an information hub and was well-placed to promote multi-stakeholder dialogue, meetings and networking. Development-based research projects have been successfully generated out of the links established through the network platforms. This is particular true for a number of FFU North-driven projects, where there are several examples of partnerships and collaboration that developed from network activities (workshops, seminars) and continued into lasting collaborative activities and projects. However, in becoming an information hub it became less effective as a focussed technical platform of skilled specialists in a position to provide targeted advice.

The DDRN has experienced a steady increase in its member base over time and by the end of 2011 it had more than 2,000 members, most of them from the South.

Less effective has been DDRN’s role in promoting the uptake of research into Danida’s development programmes and policy. There has not been, and there still is not, any formal mechanism to facilitate the use of research outputs in the development of Danida programmes, because whilst UFT has the mandate for this role it has limited influence over embassies which have the responsibility for programme development. There is the additional issue of also needing a mechanism that ensures opportunities exist for the uptake of Danida supported research output, where appropriate, for incorporation into national sector programmes.

The process of decentralisation of Danish development assistance over the past decade has made it even more difficult for the networks to reach out and influence sector programme formulation processes in the South.

5.4 Efficiency

The original three networks (NETARD, ReNED and GEPPA) had a number of duplicating functions and overlap and many stakeholders were members of all three networks. These inefficiencies led finally to the decision to merge into DDRN. The merging, however, produced a much broader scope and the loss of ability to provide focussed support to policy making, as discussed above.

During the design of the BSU, there were a number of discussions and consultations with the networks to see whether some of the functions, skills and contacts developed through DDRN activities could fit into the BSU context, and it was the original intention that the communication and networking skills of DDRN would be put to use in the BSU. However, it was not possible to agree a mechanism for this while DDRN was still operating, and communication remains something of an issue across all the modalities being evaluated (see Chapter 11).

5.5 Impact/Sustainability

Despite being able to pay for a part-time administrative assistant, the DDRN has after 2011 not been able to leverage funding to maintain their Secretariat. This has resulted in a sharp decrease in the interactive activities established at the website and in the type of level of events (workshops, seminars etc.) that DDRN could contribute to. Likewise, DDRN’s ability to serve as an effective portal for information exchange has been much reduced.

The DWF has continued, mainly based on a fee (DKK 5,000) paid by its 50[38] members, as well as by funding from a few other projects and sources. The membership level has been maintained at 2011 levels. However, the focus of DWF has gradually shifted away from development research within an African context, to more commercially oriented focus on export opportunities in growth countries in Asia. DWF has, through securing of other external funds, been able to keep some administrative functions and organising of thematic meetings, albeit at a lower activity level than in the period up to 2011.

General assembles and regular board meetings are still being held by both DDRN and DWF, similarly newsletters are still being produced by both networks, although at a lower frequency and with less substantial content than up to 2011.

With limited DDRN funding, some of the links with Southern partners (such as RUFORUM[39]) have been lost, removing or severely limiting the opportunities for Danish stakeholder representation where it might be of value, although there is little value in links without supporting action and resources. Some limited functions have been taken over with funds from Sweden, Norway and the EU.

5.6 Conclusions – Networks

The networks established relevant platforms for multi-stakeholder dialogue, networking and exchange of research information across, and between, South and North that were effective in linking groups and individuals with common research interests.

Effective mechanisms were never established for the networks to inform the Danida-funded development programme formulation processes. Loss of focus within some networks, and changes in aid delivery mechanisms, further challenged the networks potential for influencing policy.

Opportunities for utilising DDRN/DWF capacity and skills in research communication and in the dissemination of information and promotion of multi-stakeholder dialogue has not been utilised by the emerging BSU funding modality, although this has been identified as a constraint in the BSU.

[36] Network for Agricultural Research for Development (NETARD), Research Network for Environment and Development (ReNED), Research Network for Governance, Economic Policy and Public Administration (GEPPA), Danish Research Network for International Health, Danish Water Forum (DWF); Network for Smallholder Poultry Development (NPSD).

[37] Intermediate Objectives. See Producing knowledge for development together – lessons from the DanishDevelopment research Network. DDRN, July 2011, pp. 62.

[38] Mainly Danish private sector companies in the water sector.

[39] The Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) is a consortium of 30 universities in Eastern, Central and Southern Africa, established in 2004.

This page forms part of the publication 'Evaluation of Danida supported Research on Agriculture and Natural Resource Management 2006-2011' as chapter 8 of 16
Version 1.0. 09-09-2013
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