What happened at the SPIA-PIM Conference on Impacts of International Agricultural Research?


by Nancy Johnson | September 19, 2017

The ISPC's Standing Panel on Impact Assessment (SPIA) and the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM) jointly organized a Conference on Assessing the Impacts of Agricultural Research: Rigorous Evidence for Policy in Nairobi in early July. The event drew 180 participants, just over half from CGIAR. For SPIA, the conference was the opportunity to present results from its five-year research and capacity development program –Strengthening Impact Assessment in CGIAR (SIAC). For PIM, it was the first annual CGIAR social science meeting it has planned for in its second phase.

It’s been nearly twenty years since such an event took place: in 1999 SPIA and CIAT co-hosted an international workshop on Assessing the Impact of Agricultural Research on Poverty Alleviation in San Jose, Costa Rica. While there was some continuity— Derek Byerlee, Alain de Janvry, Mitch Renkow, and Tom Walker featured prominently in both events!—there were also many new faces from inside and outside the CGIAR. The participants clearly enjoyed seeing each other again and welcoming newcomers.

The collegiality of the coffee breaks, however, did not mean that the sessions were without controversy. Researchers challenged each other on methods and findings, and decision makers pushed researchers to tackle the hard questions and produce relevant evidence to inform decisions they are making.

Since 1999, both impact assessment questions and methods have changed dramatically, reflecting both the “rigor revolution” in impact evaluation and the need for agricultural research to demonstrate its contribution to global development objectives reflected in the CGIAR System-level Outcomes (SLOs) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

This brief summarizes key messages from the plenary and parallel sessions, and reactions of conference participants to what they heard, and didn’t hear. It will be followed over the coming months by a series of blogs on results from specific papers presented (as they get peer reviewed and published), and reflections on the challenges and opportunities for impact assessment and social science in CGIAR.

Thanks again to presenters, participants and to the World Agroforestry Centre(ICRAF) for hosting us. We look forward to your comments and to your participation in future activities and events.

Nancy Johnson on behalf of the SPIA and PIM Organizing Committees. Originally posted on the ISPC blog.