For research to influence policy - and hence livelihoods - both researchers and those who fund research need to better understand the complex and dynamic world of policy and policy processes. The experiences of Natural Resources Systems Programme (NRSP) projects are a rich source of lessons about policy processes for natural resource management, and the relationship between research and policy. This Brief is based on a review of 35 NRSP projects in which lessons about policy and institutions were particularly important. Power and politics are crucial in policy processes, but the review revealed that few researchers attempt to analyse the power dynamics of the natural resource management processes they investigate. One reason for this may be that research teams are dominated by natural scientists, while social scientists - who are trained to describe policy processes in terms of politics and power - rarely lead projects or set the research agenda. Beyond this, there are several key characteristics of research processes that influence the likelihood that research findings will influence policy processes. Reflexive practices on the part of researchers - in which they reflect openly and explicitly about their own position, and the implications this has for what can and cannot be done with the findings of their research - enhance the chances of successful engagement with policy makers. Building networks and providing support for stakeholder learning, as well as time, continuity and commitment, are also important. Livelihood outcomes can be unpredictable - indeed, they may have very little to do with policy. Social factors such as the economic status, age and gender of stakeholders can be more influential. The legal frameworks governing resource access and tenure are also crucial in shaping outcomes. Decentralisation, despite its good intentions, does not always have a positive effect on natural resource management policy and practice.
Brock, K.; Harrison, E. Linking research, policy and livelihoods: challenges and contradictions. (2006) 6 pp.