Developing a KS strategy for developing research proposals
Natalie Campbell, Rachel Muthoni, Ekram Elhuni, Mario Acunzo, Meena Arivanathan, Lisa-Maria Rebelo, Feby Litamahu, Gauri Salokhe, Joanna Kane-Potaka
This was looking at the way scientists in the organization develop project proposals – who is involved, who gets to input, who is aware of potential proposals, how are people informed, how do the proposal ideas fit in strategically to the organizations objectives, etc.
-Not enough cross fertilization of ideas – across programs and discipines and geographic regions
-All ideas not captured
-No process exists for input from staff outside a particular area or not part of the core or management group.
-Uptake strategies and communications not built into proposals
-Opportunities to link relevant projects may be missed – need to be more strategic.
It was discussed whether to have an e-platform to share ideas for new projects, develop project concepts, have any staff comment on these, include the proposal as these develop. This will help capture ideas (not just from the scientists in a particular area) and allow for cross discipline and cross program contributions.
This platform would also be used with other elements e.g. meetings, roles different people play, etc.
The group generally felt that an e-platform was not a useful part of the solution. This was largely because they felt people would see this as just another reporting they have to submit and would not go to the extra effort to use it.
Some points/ideas included:
-Use existing structures, corporate requirements, reporting, systems etc rather than creating new ones.
-Someone to have a responsibility for connecting projects – understanding each proposal that is being worked on and linking other areas of the institute that are relevant, to this. This could be the DDG of Research. At CIFOR it is the DG.
-Making the project proposal more strategic: Turn organization strategy into an alignment strategy ie another document that uses the strategic plan of the organization and puts it into a form that you can use to ensure any work you do aligns with the organization strategy.
But don’t just ‘tick off’ which organizational objectives the project satisfies; instead show which other activities are fulfilling this organizational objective and say how this new project will fit in with / complement / work with these other activities.
-Have a checklist for when people are developing project proposals.
-Have a checklist for the clearance. But do not rely only on the clearance process to make sure the right links and interdisciplinary approach has been taken. The clearance can be a final check for this but should not be the only or first check.
-Think about how within this process we are making sure external stakeholders are also having input and the project is demand driven.
If you did have an e-platform for developing project proposals, maybe a section of this could be visible to external people and they could contribute or comment. This will also be transparent.
-Use activities like the annual science week.
-Use the weekly coordination meeting to inform all areas of proposals that are being developed. CIFOR and Bioversity do this.
-Be clear on what role the project office will play.
-Is there a proof of concept (where a proposal has got more input from different areas in a certain way) and use this to persuade others of the benefits. Also use the beneficiaries of this as ambassadors for the process.
-Look also for quick wins that can help sell the ideas.
-Think careful about using structure-solutions and organic-solutions. Organic solutions can work on the attitude and culture more and may be more sustainable and effective.