Partnerships to attain global goals
The multidisciplinary research that IDRC supports shares a common goal: contributing to positive change in the lives of people in the developing world.
Strong partnerships are at the very core of this goal. We believe in the power of partnerships to generate ideas, scale up innovative solutions, and provide funds to empower researchers and institutions.
This year’s Annual Report focuses on partnerships for global impact. This report demonstrates how we work with our partners to build a more inclusive and sustainable world. Together we support research and capacity building in the Global South to generate stronger public policies, equip vulnerable populations to adapt to the effects of climate change, expand learning opportunities, improve health and livelihoods, and so much more. These investments change lives in the developing world, but they also bring Canadian research and innovation to the world stage, opening opportunities for more partnerships in the future.
We have found economic stability through rearing and selling fish. With this income our quality of life has definitely improved…
— A WOMAN FISH FARMER FROM BOLIVIA WHO BENEFITS FROM ONE OF CIFSRF’S 144 INNOVATIONS
Evidence for better policymaking
Since the Centre’s inception almost 50 years ago, IDRC has collaborated with researchers and policymakers to generate data, evidence, and knowledge to inform democratic transitions in countries like South Africa, Chile, and Vietnam. Sharing context-specific data and analysis, raising awareness, and building capacity strengthens the ability and effectiveness of researchers and policymakers to listen and respond to the realities of people in the Global South.
The results of the 10-year Think Tank Initiative (TTI) — a collaboration between IDRC, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the UK Department for International Development, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, and the Netherlands Directorate-General for International Cooperation — speak to the significant impact that multi-funder programs can achieve. This $200 million partnership, which concludes in 2019, focuses on strengthening the capacity of independent policy research organizations to provide evidence-based research.
The initiative’s support helped 43 think tanks in 20 countries engage in long-term planning, establish research priorities, strengthen their capacity for policy engagement and communication, and pursue research that is timely and relevant to national needs and opportunities.
For example, TTI support helped local think tanks provide evidence-based research that improved policies and programs on tobacco control in West Africa; fertilizer use in East Africa; and strengthened the public’s understanding of party electoral platforms in Guatemala, Ecuador, and Peru.
Building resilience to climate change
Findings from the Collaborative Adaptation Research Initiative in Africa and Asia (CARIAA) also came to fruition this year. This seven-year, $70 million research program was a key partnership built on IDRC’s longstanding relationship with the UK’s Department for International Development. The concept of partnership permeated the initiative’s design, which organized research around four regional consortia and brought more than 450 researchers and postgraduate students together from 14 countries in Africa and South Asia. This collaborative approach also involved working with local communities and government and policy experts, who contributed to the research findings.
More than one billion people worldwide live in climate change “hot spots”: deltas, semi-arid lands, and glacier-dependent basins in Africa and Asia. These are among the world’s most sensitive areas to climate change and have the most pressing need to adapt. CARIAA’s focus was on generating knowledge about the cross-sectoral effects of climate change in hot spots and applying these findings to accelerate action and promote resilience among the most vulnerable people living there.
The initiative’s more than 900 research outputs included over 130 peer-reviewed journal articles. Three of these articles were published in the prestigious journals Nature and Nature Climate Change, and several papers were included in a special report presented by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Some research findings were also converted into practical solutions. For example, climate-smart agricultural practices were introduced to smallholder farmers in northern Pakistan. Rising temperatures, variable monsoon patterns, weak governance, and a host of other factors make the region extremely vulnerable to climate change. Water is a scarce resource, but more than 1 billion people in the greater region depend on it for their lives and livelihoods. CARIAA piloted several adaptation measures in the region to improve water management and to build local capacity. These included switching from diesel fuel to solar-powered pumps and adopting a suite of techniques such as drip irrigation and multi-cropping. The adaptation measures improved crop productivity and the government is scaling them up to reach 30,000 farmers. These positive outcomes are also being used to influence policy and practice.
CARIAA also promoted research uptake and strengthened the cadre of researchers in the field. More than 270 young researchers from developing countries gained opportunities to further their knowledge, work alongside established researchers, and publish research. Many of these young researchers are now entering government positions, advancing their studies, or pursuing research careers.
The initiative also strengthened university programs by improving teaching and training about building resilience to the effects of climate change. In Nepal, the findings of two consortia were packaged into a climate change certificate course for the private sector, sub-national government officials, and the Agriculture and Forestry University. One of these consortia also partnered with the local university to provide ongoing advice to meet local needs.
The biggest success in collaboration, especially in CARIAA work, is the ability to…learn from different researchers and different people from different backgrounds.
— PRINCE ANSAH, UNIVERSITY OF GHANA
Members from each consortium also convened a working group dedicated to sharing and improving approaches to research for impact (research that influences changes in policy, behaviour, and attitudes). The group became a learning and experience hub from which all of CARIAA could draw, and their lessons are in demand by a number of other research programs. One consortium developed the findings into a free massive open online course available through the University of Cape Town in South Africa.
An evaluation of CARIAA found that the initiative contributed to the development of more than 20 local or national climate adaptation plans and more than a dozen policies in 11 countries. For example, the findings of one consortium prompted the addition of a chapter devoted to gender and climate change in the Odisha State Climate Action Plan in India. The initiative’s research raised awareness and built capacity to nurture an environment that is more receptive to information about climate change risks, vulnerabilities, and adaptation needs, and highlighted the urgency for action and for continued research investments in this area.
Digital innovations to improve learning
Education is a key pillar of economic and social development, but it faces a profound crisis in many developing countries. IDRC partners with researchers, governments, and other funders to support research that identifies challenges and develops and scales up solutions.
The Syrian conflict and resulting refugee crisis have taken a massive toll on education systems in Lebanon. With more than half-a-million Syrian refugees under the age of 18 living within its borders, Lebanon’s classrooms are overcrowded. Qualified teachers are few and far between, they have insufficient resources, and traumatized children and high dropout rates are becoming new norms.
However, integrating displaced communities through education is an area that is receiving growing attention because of its potential to empower and encourage peaceful co-existence with host communities. An IDRC-supported project that focused on cost-effective digital learning tested the potential of the Coder-Maker Digital Innovations Kit (which includes hardware and open-source software, digital tools, training materials, and more) to improve the process of teaching and the quality and accessibility of learning for Syrian refugee children and their host communities.
“Smart glasses” are one example of a project designed and built by students (photo above) using the Coder- Maker Digital Innovations Kit. Two Lebanese students and three Syrian refugee classmates developed the glasses to help a visually impaired student get around independently. The glasses — equipped with a small computer, an ultrasonic sensor, and a motor that vibrates at different intensities to indicate obstacles in her path — have helped the student move around without bumping into other people or objects. But the glasses are just one part of the team’s success — grades and behaviour have also improved, and the team is motivated to tackle a second development stage to further refine the glasses.
The project builds digital literacy skills for Syrian refugee students, a critical pre-condition for learning through blended (online and offline) methods. Students learn by participating in guided inquiry, apply what they have learned in hands-on tasks, and collaborate in small teams to solve real-life problems. The project also builds the capacities of a local pool of educators to ensure that these approaches can be scaled up and integrated into the mainstream education system.
In addition to developing key skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, and communications, the programming has bridged formerly fraught relationships between local Lebanese and Syrian refugee students by bringing the two cultures together in a creative, purposeful, and productive way. After initial success across 41 schools and 4,170 students, the Lebanese government has expressed a strong desire to continue scaling up the project across the country.
Before, I needed to control and tell students what to do in projects, but here I have seen aspects of my students I did not know…the conversation has changed; their behaviour has changed. there is so much more I can and will do as a teacher.
— TEACHER AT A DIGITAL LEARNING INNOVATION SCHOOL IN BEIRUT, LEBANON
Digital learning, research collaboration, and scaling proven innovations to improve educational systems were at the heart of the IDRC-supported “Digital learning for development” (DL4D) project.
DL4D research revealed that a massive shortage of qualified teachers was one of the major obstacles to improving digital learning. Cost-effective online innovations, such as the massive open online courses used in China, as well as other online and offline training, offered clear opportunities to improve teacher professional development. The project expanded to include partners worldwide, and the international Teacher Professional Development at Scale Coalition was formed.
The Coalition is promoting quality, equitable, and sustainable large-scale teacher professional development by targeting more than one million teachers in 10 countries using information and communication technologies. The Coalition will also initiate and support efforts to create effective training models across the Global South by engaging directly with governments, educators, donors, and other partners.
A knowledge synthesis of 44 of IDRC’s education-related projects identified the core factors that shape the process of learning from digital tools in diverse development contexts: teachers and teaching; infrastructure; policy; context; and literacies. These findings will inform IDRC’s future investments in knowledge-related research.
The Centre’s experience, continuous learning, and efforts to build effective partnerships have helped pave the way to a new key partnership confirmed in 2018–2019: a $77.2 million collaboration with the Global Partnership for Education, the only global fund dedicated solely to education in developing countries. The partnership will strengthen education systems and dramatically increase the number of children who are learning and attending school in developing countries. Building on IDRC’s expertise and programming in education, the Centre will manage the Knowledge and Innovation Exchange (KIX). This program seeks to strengthen national education systems in up to 67 countries by ensuring that state-of-the art knowledge is available to and implemented by educational ministries.
Responding to a rapidly evolving global threat
The Rapid Research Fund (RRF) for Ebola Virus Disease exemplifies IDRC’s longstanding pursuit of innovative, forward-looking, responsive partnerships with like-minded funders. Borne of decades of collaboration between IDRC, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, this partnership mobilizes resources to minimize the threat of Ebola and similar pandemic outbreaks in real-time — whether at home or abroad.
Canada was at the forefront of developing and testing an Ebola vaccine during the 2014–2015 outbreak in West Africa. It prevented Ebola among 100% of vaccinated people, but it was evident that in order to prevent and manage outbreaks, factors such as social behaviours, misinformation, conflict, and community mistrust of medical workers must also be addressed.
The RRF provided funding to four interdisciplinary Canadian-African research teams this year to develop much-needed complementary approaches to counter Ebola outbreaks, including the current one in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The researchers will explore how social, cultural, and environmental factors affect the spread of Ebola; assess community mental health with a view to developing toolkits for future outbreak interventions; strengthen the ethical conduct and oversight of research during public health emergencies; and examine how routine health information can be integrated into Ebola responses.
The initiative will better equip health systems and communities for outbreaks and findings will be accessible to public health systems around the world. This includes Canada, where recent measles outbreaks have shown that trust in the medical system, community engagement, social behaviours, and the need for collaboration between medical and social science responders are as relevant as they are in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The Board of Governors is responsible for the Centre’s stewardship: it sets strategic direction and oversees operations. The Board acts and conducts all of its business in accordance with the IDRC Act, IDRC General By-laws, and governance best practices. The roles and responsibilities, composition, and organization of the Board are described in detail in its Charter.
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IDRC is accountable to Parliament and all Canadians for our use of public resources. Here are some of the measures in place that help us meet or exceed the standards set by the Government of Canada for accountability and transparency.
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Management’s Discussion and Analysis and Financial statements
This Management’s Discussion and Analysis (MD&A) provides a narrative discussion of the financial results and operational changes for the financial year ended 31 March 2019. This discussion should be read alongside the Financial statements starting on page 34, which were prepared in accordance with the International Financial Reporting Standards. All monetary amounts are presented in Canadian dollars unless otherwise specified.
Read: Management's Discussion and Analysis and Financial statements for 2018–2019 (PDF, 1.77MB)
Read the full Annual Report 2018–2019
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