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Reflections from the ResUp MeetUp, Nairobi, 9-12 February 2015

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Reflections from the ResUp MeetUp, Nairobi, 9-12 February 2015

Future Health Systems

The week in Nairobi has been enjoyable. A valuable four days of learning and sharing with new and familiar colleagues tackling similar knowledge mobilisation challenges in different contexts.

I thought I would share a few reflections:

Let’s not get too hung up on terminology and concepts

Even though I have never liked the term research uptake, I am not going to let it put me off. I think we all need to give ourselves a break from trying to pin down universally shared terms and concepts. Over my 14 years working in this area, I have come across plenty to choose from. We should feel comfortable selecting what works for each of us.

If you’re interested, my approach continues to be significantly informed by the work of Isabel Walter, Sandra Nutley and Huw Davies. I value their appreciation that research evidence is just one of the many forms of knowledge that can influence decision making, as well as their efforts to pin-down the principles of effective knowledge mobilisation.

Move from supply to demand-side issues and actions

Inevitably ResUp focused a lot on supply side strategies. This make sense given that it is easier to focus on supply, the history of funding, and the opportunities for expanding one’s armoury of strategies through technological innovation, which are enticing to many. It would be nice to see future ResUp meetings and related activities place a greater emphasis on tackling a number of key demand side issues.

Allow us space to think, share and plan

My sense is that most of us are working on projects that demand a focus on specific, mostly supply-side, deliverables, with little budget or time to share and learn from experience. These last four days have been a rare exception. We need more space to plan and adapt our strategies.

Tying ourselves up in context and complexity

There is no doubt that context is complicated and critical. I work at an institution fascinated by these issues. We do need to better understand the environments we are working in, who the audiences are, how we best engage and influence key actors, and, importantly, recognise where others are better placed to do so. However, we must be careful that we don’t tangle ourselves into situations where we cannot accept applicability beyond a single context.

Keep it multifaceted

A number of ResUp presenters and facilitators shared interesting stories and practical lessons from operationalising single interventions. Even though most of us know, it’s always worth reinforcing – common sense and evidence both tell us so – that multifaceted strategies, using face-to-face and virtual techniques over short and longer time spans, are necessary for effective knowledge mobilisation.

Celebrate our disciplinary diversity

The past four days have been a fantastic opportunity to meet colleagues from so many different disciplinary backgrounds who have purposefully or by some chance found themselves working on the mobilisation of research evidence. Just for starters I have met epidemiologists, statisticians, anthropologists, journalists, web developers, and lobbyists. We should be excited about this diversity and do more to make the most of the vast range of skills and experiences we bring. I can’t think of too many areas of work who can claim this.

Future Health Systems

As someone still fairly new to working with the DFID-funded Future Health Systems Research Programme Consortium, I have enjoyed and been impressed by the work and expertise shared by FHS partners at ResUp. I learnt a number of things about Southern media engagement from my colleagues Shibaji Bose and Ayub Kakaire, and had fun judging the outputs of the issues brief training led by Nasreen Jessani, Richard Ayah and Mabel Nangami. Nasreen has already blogged some of her interesting thoughts from her experience at ResUp. I am looking forward reading others' reflections in the coming days.

Finally, congratulations and thank you to colleagues from AFIDEP, IDS, Quaternary Consulting and DFID for making ResUp MeetUp happen. It was a great success. I have never been to an event quite like this outside of the UK and North America. Looking forward to the future.

Tom Barker

Institute of Development Studies