Recently I had the good fortune to be asked to be involved in the assessment for ESRC grant funding for their forced displacement research programme. I did start this assessment with, I must confess, the view that the majority of the proposals would have no relevance in the real world.
How wrong I was – the majority of bids were superb and as a practitioner in the field, I was left feeling so strongly that so many of these proposals were addressing such important topics where answers were needed urgently.
Yet where I was less impressed, and I suppose why I was invited, was on their approach to dissemination and advocacy. Time and time again, on the back of an excellent research proposal, the key activity would be to write a paper or run a workshop. I just do not believe that change happens like that – a far more advanced campaign strategy is needed.
But to be fair this is my area of work. I am sure that the academics would have been less than impressed by any academic research proposal that I might develop. This experience did make me think that there should be much more contact between campaigners and academics in this country – but what is the best way to make this happen?