Research Programs

The mission of the Institute is to better understand, support and enable the practice of positive social change. We deliver on our mission through directly supporting social change initiatives and conducting our own research, delivering teaching and training and outreach.

We support individuals, organisations and networks that are involved in social change particularly but not exclusively in Indigenous Australia, the Pacific, Southeast Asia and Timor-Leste.

We support our partners with action research; monitoring, evaluation and learning; research design and management; thinking and working politically, adaptive programming; coalition building, and partnership brokering.

Our current projects with our partners are listed below, broken out by geography.

Pacific

Supporting the Australia Pacific Training Coalition

The Institute is supporting TAFE Queensland in the implementation of the third stage of the Australia-Pacific Training Coalition (APTC) which runs from mid-2018 to end-2022. The APTC is Australia's flagship Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) program in the Pacific region. The DFAT-funded APTC works collaboratively with national governments, private sector agencies and civil society organisations to provide Australian-standard skills and qualifications to Pacific Islanders in nine Pacific countries. The Institute provides APTC with technical support, coaching and mentoring and two-way learning in a range of areas, including monitoring, evaluation and learning; research design and delivery; partnership brokering and coalition building; and management and leadership.

Co-Director Linda Kelly, Senior Research Fellow Danielle Campbell and Adjunct Research Fellow Allan Illingworth have been working with the APTC monitoring and evaluation team to develop and implement an APTC-wide Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Framework, to develop and periodically update country and regional-level theories of change and to support the APTC's leadership team's ongoing reflection and learning processes.

In 2021, Senior Research Fellow Lis Jackson and Research Fellow Aidan Craney worked with APTC and a Samoan disability advocacy organisation Nuanua O le Alofa which aimed to identify lessons learned from these two organisations' work in delivering TVET for persons with disabilities in Samoa. The research recommended a number of practical ways in which APTC and other providers can help make TVET more inclusive, including adjustments to facilities and classroom layout, curricula, course materials and teaching approaches.

Evaluating the impact of Australia's support for the COVID-19 Response in the Pacific

The Institute is working with the Humanitarian Advisory Group and CoLAB Consulting in 2021-2022 to evaluate DFAT’s COVID-19 Pacific and Timor-Leste Preparedness and Recovery NGO Partnership. The first phase of this evaluation involved talking to Australian and local NGOs in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste and Vanuatu to find out what impact their activities were having on hygiene practices, availability of water and sanitation facilities, and food security and livelihoods and to understand what was enabling positive change in these areas. The early findings of the evaluation pointed to two key factors supporting progress: first, genuine involvement of local partners in planning and implementing activities and second, strong collaboration with national and local governments involved in the COVID-19 response. Data collection is currently underway for the second phase of the evaluation, which will involve a more in-depth look at the impact of partners’ food security and livelihoods interventions on households and communities. Alongside the main evaluation, the Institute is also working with the Humanitarian Advisory Group and The Behavioural Architects to undertake analysis of the social, behavioural and practical barriers to vaccination in Papua New Guinea and how effective different approaches to communication are in promoting vaccine uptake.

Supporting health system responses to violence against women and children in Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea

The Institute, in collaboration with La Trobe University’s Judith Lumley Centre, are engaged in a multi-year partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The partnership will strengthen the ability of health systems to respond to women and children experiencing violence in the Asia-Pacific, with an initial focus in Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea. In 2021, the team began working with the Ministry for Health, National
Institute for Health and non-government organisations in Timor-Leste to develop a national in-service curriculum, co-design approaches to capacity building based on international best-practice, mentor a group of national trainers as they roll out capacity building in district health systems and evaluate outcomes for shared learning. The lessons from this work have informed the development of a similar program in PNG which will commence in 2023.The La Trobe-UNFPA collaboration demonstrates the significant potential of university and industry partnerships for scaling up approaches to addressing global human development problems; approaches that are based on the synthesis of international evidence, carefully tailored to contextual realities in different settings, and are locally owned and led.

Supporting adaptive management in DFAT-funded programs in Papua New Guinea

The Institute is partnering with Abt Associates in 2022-2023 to support adaptive management in DFAT-funded programs in Papua New Guinea. This currently includes supporting a participatory political economy analysis for the Australia PNG Subnational Program and supporting the implementation of adaptive management approaches within the Partnerships for Improving Education Program and the Australia PNG Economic Partnership. This work is being undertaken by Institute Senior Research Fellow Lisa Denney. In collaboration with program stakeholders, it includes developing frameworks, strategies and guidelines for integrating adaptive management into the program management cycle and supporting program staff with their implementation through training, coaching and mentoring and quality assurance.

Supporting research and learning in the Women Leading and Influencing program

The Institute is partnering with Cardno Emerging Markets (now part of DT Global) in 2022-2024 to oversee all research, learning and knowledge dissemination activities in the DFAT-funded Women Learning and Influencing (WLI) program. WLI is a four-year $8m program which offers a range of developmental leadership offerings to Pacific scholars studying at Australian universities and institutions. The Institute is responsible for overseeing the development, implementation and ongoing refinement of the WLI Monitoring, Evaluation, Research, Learning and Adaptation Framework. The framework includes a rolling research agenda to support program delivery and contribute to the body of knowledge on women's leadership in the Pacific. The work is being led by Institute Senior Research Fellow Elisabeth Jackson with support from other Institute staff on an as needed basis.

Researching women's leadership during COVID-19

The Institute is partnering with Cardno Emerging Markets (now part of DT Global) in 2022 to undertake case studies which explore the extent to which the COVID-19 Leadership Fund has enabled women leading the projects to exercise developmental leadership, including the mechanism through which women have been able to exercise leadership, the barriers and enablers and how the fund has contributed to this. The COVID-19 Leadership Fund is part of the DFAT-funded Women's Leadership Initiative, an Australian Government initiative promoting women's leadership and building a future generation of women leaders from the Pacific region. The fund supported WLI participants and alumni to contribute to COVID-19 responses in their respective countries through supporting small-scale initiatives addressing health, agriculture and food security, education and community safety and security across six Pacific countries. The work is being led by Institute Senior Research Fellow Elisabeth Jackson with support from Research Fellow Aidan Craney and former partnerships manager Yeshe Smith, together with local researchers from Samoa, Fiji and PNG.  The key findings from the case studies have been captured in a report Supporting Women's Leadership during COVID-19: Women Leading and Influencing in the Pacific which was published in November 2022.

Undertaking a political economy analysis of Large Ocean States for The Asia Foundation

The Institute is partnering with The Asia Foundation (TAF) in 2021-2022 to undertake a political economy analysis of three Pacific large ocean states - Nauru, Tuvalu and Kiribati - and to produce three country and one synthesis reports. The analysis will provide a deeper understanding of the complex political, social and economic dynamics of three countries from different perspectives and how these effect their respective development trajectories. The work is being led by Institute Senior Research Fellow Lisa Denney with support from Research Fellow Aidan Craney and in collaboration with local researchers.

Researching Youth Leadership and Civic Engagement in the Pacific with an ARC Discovery Grant

The Institute’s Director, Professor Chris Roche, and Research Fellow Dr. Aidan Craney were successful in securing a four-year (2022-2025) Australian Research Council Discovery Grant for the project The future of the Pacific: youth leadership and civic engagement. Chris and Aidan will be working with Professor Helen Lee from La Trobe University, Associate Professor Patrick Vakaoti from the University of Otago, Dr Mema Motusaga, the CEO of the Samoa Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development, La Trobe PhD Scholar Kolaia Raisele and staff from the Pacific Community and The Asia Foundation. The project will conduct case studies of youth leaders in Fiji, Tonga and either Samoa or Vanuatu, tracking emerging leaders across various disciplines. The project will provide insights into how young people in the Pacific navigate the challenges and opportunities available for them to develop as leaders and will engage directly with policy making and programming decision-makers to help them develop positive and appropriate interventions.

Supporting the preparation of foresight briefs for the Vanuatu Government with support from UNDP

The Institute is partnering with the UNPD Pacific Office in 2021-2022 to support the preparation of foresight briefs by senior government officials on emerging development challenges in Vanuatu. The Institute is supporting the development of the briefs through a collaborative process which includes the collation of existing resources/evidence, the provision of tailored support to the senior government officials, convening and documenting the results of roundtables with relevant experts from across the region and peer reviewing the draft briefs. The work is being led by Institute Senior Research Fellow Lisa Denney with support from Research Fellow Aidan Craney.

Developing an analysis of the accountability ecosystem in the Pacific for UNDP

The Institute is partnering with the UNDP Pacific Office in 2021-2025 to prepare an analysis of the accountability ecosystem in the Pacific with this forming part of the UNDP's "Accountable Public Finances to Serve Pacific People - Vaka Pasifika" project.  The aim of the Vaka Pasifika project is to strengthen the governance mechanisms enabling Pacific countries to deliver public services that are better calibrated to meet specific needs of people. The Vaka Pasifika project recognises that across the region there is an increasing web of independent accountability institutions and actors which have some role to play in ensuring public finance mechanisms are accountable, transparent and people centered. The accountability ecosystem analysis will: 1) explore different local understandings, meanings and practices of accountability, oversight and related concepts; 2) map the various national institutions and actors that are involved in promoting PFM accountability, their roles, interests and relationships, how they currently coordinate their efforts; and 3) what can be done to support them to collaborate to promote accountability, and as appropriate, to address corruption in a politically savvy manner. The analysis is being led by Institute Senior Research Fellow Lisa Denney with support from Research Fellows Allan Illingworth and Aidan Craney and local researchers.

Southeast Asia

Strengthening water governance in the Mekong

In 2021, the Institute was commissioned to undertake a political economy analysis of inclusion in water governance in the Mekong to inform an international NGO’s programming. The analysis explored how decisions on hydropower development are made and the barriers and opportunities for affected communities to engage in decision-making processes. The research involved a desk review of the expansive literature, interviews with relevant stakeholders at the country and regional levels, and a workshop bringing together civil society practitioners and researchers. The workshop
aimed to draw out the implications of the findings for strengthening community engagement in decisionmaking. At a closed-door roundtable in early 2022, program stakeholders from across the region reported that the analysis had helped shape their program and advocacy strategies in a range
of different ways and enabled them to identify more realistic entry points for change. Five country reports covering Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam as well as a regional report were produced. Due to sensitives, the country reports are available only on request, while
the regional report is publicly accessible here.

Supporting a longitudinal impact study of the INKLUSI program in Indonesia

The Institute is partnering with CoWater International during 2022-2023 to design and develop baseline data collection methods and tools for a longitudinal impact study of the DFAT-funded INKLUSI program in Indonesia. The INKLUSI program supports Indonesian women and marginalized groups to equitably participate in and benefit from Indonesia’s social, economic, and political opportunities. The development of the design and baseline data collection methods and tools will include a rapid review of existing demographic data, academic literature and relevant reports which then informs in-country consultations and a design workshop with INKLUSI stakeholders. The project is being led by Institute Co-Director Linda Kelly with support from Senior Research Fellows Elisabeth Jackson and Danielle Campbell and in collaboration with researchers from Cakra Wikara Indonesia and disability network researchers based in Indonesia and Australia.

Developing case studies on adaptive policy reform for Coalitions for Change

The Institute is partnering with The Asia Foundation in 2022-2023 to develop case studies of adaptive policy reform which will be used in a Leadership Development program designed and delivered by the Coalitions for Change (CfC) program, a partnership between DFAT and TAF in the Philippines. The leadership program aims to provide learning activities to enhance the skills of local reform leaders to pursue policy reforms. The program includes on-line training, mentoring, workshops, talks and webinars. To date, the on-line training has only drawn on case studies from the Philippines, limiting its appeal to non-Philippines audiences.  This project will identify and develop up to four case studies of adaptive policy reform drawn from other parts of Southeast Asia or the Pacific. The project is being led by Institute Senior Research Fellow Lisa Denney with support from Senior Research Fellow Elisabeth Jackson, Adjunct Research Fellow Allan Illingworth and Director Chris Roche, in collaboration with local researchers from the prioritised countries.

Building local capacity in qualitative research methods for The Asia Foundation

The Institute is partnering with The Asia Foundation in 2021-2022 to capture lessons from a DFAT-funded qualitative research capacity building initiative and to update the learning module that was developed as part of that initiative. The capacity building initiative targeted TAF country program staff. It included the design and delivery of an eight-part learning module on Qualitative Research Methods followed by a seven-city study on Inequalities in Asian Cities in which learning module participants were accompanied by a mentor in the design, delivery and reporting of qualitative research studies. The project is being led by Institute Senior Research Fellow Lisa Denney with support from Senior Research Fellow Elisabeth Jackson, Adjunct Research Fellow Allan Illingworth and Director Chris Roche.

Conducting research on the nexus between disability and trafficking in persons in ASEAN

The Institute is partnering with Cardno Emerging Markets (now DT Global) in 2022-2023 to undertake research in Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand which explores the nexus between disability and trafficking in persons in the ASEAN region. The research has been commissioned by the DFAT-funded ASEAN-Australia Counter Trafficking Program (ASEAN-ACT). The research will draw together existing evidence and learning to date, identify gaps in knowledge and provide guidance and recommendations to inform efforts by policy makers and practitioners in the target countries to reduce vulnerability to trafficking and improve access to justice and services for trafficked victims with a disability. The project is being led by Senior Research Fellow Elisabeth Jackson with support from Senior Research Fellow Lisa Denney and local researchers from Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.

Developing a GEDSI and Intersectionality Toolkit for the INKLUSI program in Indonesia

The Institute is contributing in 2022 to the development of a GEDSI (Gender Equality, Disability and Social Inclusion) and Intersectionality Toolkit for the INKLUSI program in Indonesia. The INKLUSI program supports Indonesian women and marginalized groups to equitably participate in and benefit from Indonesia’s social, economic, and political opportunities. The toolkit will be used to strengthen the capacity of INKLUSI and its partners in integrating GEDSI and intersectionality approaches in all INKLSUSI processes, systems, operations, programming and interventions. Institute Senior Research Fellow Elisabeth Jackson is contributing to this project which is led by Dr. Dina Afrianty, a Research Fellow in the La Trobe University Law School.

Facilitating discussions about knowledge-based regional engagement within the Partnerships for Infrastructure program

The Institute is partnering with The Asia Foundation in 2021-2022 to help facilitate discussions about knowledge-based regional engagement within the Partnerships for Infrastructure (P4I) program. P4I is an Australian Government initiative partnering with Southeast Asia to foster inclusive growth through sustainable infrastructure.  The discussion will be facilitated through a four-step process, including a review of relevant documents, the preparation of a discussion paper, facilitating an on-line discussion amongst P4I staff and preparing a final paper that captures the outcome of the discussion. The Institute's contribution is provided by Senior Research Fellow Dr. Elisabeth Jackson.

Researching disability leadership in Indonesia with Yayasan BILiC

The Institute is partnering with the Developmental Leadership Program at the University of Birmingham and Yayasan BILiC in Indonesia in 2020-2022 to undertake research on disability leadership in Indonesia. The research is examining how leadership of people with disability has shaped local processes of change and development, what individual and social factors have enabled or constrained the ability of people with disability to be effective leaders and what interventions support people with disabiliy to take on leadership roles or other positions of influence. The Institute's contribution to this project is led by Senior Research Fellow Elisabeth Jackson.

Indigenous Australia

Supporting the Central Land Council with monitoring, evaluation and learning

The Central Land Council (CLC) represents Aboriginal people in Central Australia and supports them to manage their land, make the most of the opportunities it offers and promote their rights. The Institute has partnered with the CLC for more than 10 years to support the monitoring and evaluation of its community development programs which currently support 35 Central Australian Aboriginal communities. These programs aim to maintain Aboriginal identity, language, culture and connection to country and to improve health, education and employment outcomes. These programs are all funded by Aboriginal people using income from land-use agreements.

The Institute’s Senior Research Fellow Danielle Campbell, Research Fellow Alex Gyles and Adjunct Research Fellow Allan Illingworth support the CLC and Aboriginal people to track the impact the community development programs are having in communities. This includes analysing information collected throughout the year from individual project reports, community-based monitoring, staff reflections and, when available, independent evaluations of specific projects. This is supplemented each year by in-depth reviews of selected projects or areas of work. This information and analysis is captured in annual monitoring and evaluation reports written by Institute staff. The most recent report includes a detailed case study of the Yeperenye Trail Project that helped unpack how Indigenous people and the CLC are working develop deeper partnerships and influence key stakeholders to drive more transformational change.

In 2021, Institute Co-Director Linda Kelly and Danielle Campbell worked with the CLC to redesign the community development program framework and to develop an accompanying monitoring, evaluation and learning strategy. The Institute is now partnering with the CLC to support the implementation of the MEL strategy.

Strengthening tracking and learning with the Warlpiri Education and Training Trust

The Warlpiri Education and Training Trust (WETT) has been designing and funding programs to support education and training priorities for Warlpiri, an Indigenous language and cultural group of the Tanami Desert in the Northern Territory, since 2005.

In 2021 the Institute, WETT and the Central Land Council (CLC), successfully completed a two-year co-design process that resulted in WETT approving and funding its first comprehensive Tracking and Learning Plan. The plan enables WETT to keep track of its governance and five major programs that underscore Warlpiri people, Warlpiri values and Warlpiri ways of knowing and making assessments. The plan was developed by Indigenous and non-Indigenous collaborators, including Institute staff Danielle Campbell and Marlkirdi Rose who facilitated three WETT workshops, and supported a community research trial in Yuendumu, a remote community 300 kms North-West of Alice Springs.

In May 2021 Institute staff worked with WETT members, CLC staff and Warlpiri community members to design and trial Warlpiri-led data collection and analysis processes. WETT reflected that this was a strong way of working that saw Warlpiri community members employed to do their own research, monitoring and evaluation for the first time. The Institute is currently supporting the implementation of the WETT Tracking and Learning Plan in 2022.

Developing a monitoring and evaluation framework for the Northern Territory Government's Remote Engagement and Coordination Strategy

The Institute has been engaged by the Northern Institute at Charles Darwin University to help develop a monitoring and evaluation framework for the Northern Territory Government (NTG) Remote Engagement and Coordination Strategy (RECS). The RECS aims to improve outcomes for Indigenous communities by improving government service coordination and regional and remote engagement with Indigenous people. The Institute drew on existing Northern Institute research and consultation with NTG government staff to draw out differences between NTG staff and remote Indigenous community in regard to expectations of RECS and indicators of positive change. This informed an action research project which has enabled each group to separately collect, analyse and use data to assess existing engagement and coordination practice and identify how it can be improved. This project is being led by Institute Co-Director Linda Kelly and supported by Senior Research Fellow Danielle Campbell.

Developing Aboriginal-led approaches to monitoring and evaluation with the Northern Land Council

The Northern Land Council (NLC) Community Planning and Development Program has been running for six years. Institute Co-Director Linda Kelly has been collaborating with the NLC on trialing and refining three approaches to monitoring and evaluating Indigenous-led community development initiatives. These include regular project monitoring and feedback from Indigenous participants and NLC staff, and Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers from Charles Darwin University (CDU). The research explored community perspectives on community development aspirations and outcomes using a ‘Ground Up’ approach and assessing the program’s impact on community wellbeing in one location using an adapted version of the Australian National University’s Mayi Kuwayu Survey. The work has generated interesting and important insights, particularly around the Indigenous Ground Up research approach and the adapted community well-being survey, which were co-presented with CDU researchers at the national Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AITSIS) conferences and in a journal article co-authored with the NLC which has since won the Australasian Evaluation Society 2022 Publication Award. Alongside this work the Institute produced the third annual report on the Community Planning and Development Program based on findings from all three approaches.

Evaluating the Aboriginal Governance and Management Program in the Northern Territory

The Institute has partnered with the Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory (APONT) to conduct an evaluation of its Aboriginal Governance and Management Program (AGMP). The AGMP was established in 2013 to build the capacity of NT Aboriginal organisations. The evaluation is being conducted in the second half of 2022. The key stages of the evaluation include a document review, stakeholder consultations, data collation and synthesis and participatory data analysis, sense-making and recommendation development. The evaluation is being led by Senior Research Fellow Danielle Campell with support from Institute Senior Research Fellow Lisa Denney, Research Associate Marlkirdi Rose and an independent researcher Louise Stanley who completed a research thesis with the Institute in 2021.

Global

Contributing to the design and delivery of the Developmental Leadership Program Phase 3 with the University of Birmingham

Since 2014, the Institute has partnered with the University of Birmingham to implement the Developmental Leadership Program (DLP). This research partnership explores how leadership, power and political processes drive or block successful development. The DLP is funded by the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

The DLP is currently in its third phase which runs from 2019 to 2022. Research during this phase is focused on exploring how leadership is understood in different contexts, where leaders come from, how leaders collectively influence institutions, and how developmental leadership can be supported. DLP has published a series of foundational papers which provide a conceptual framework for the research. This includes How Can Developmental Leadership Be Supported which was authored by Institute Director Chris Roche and Senior Research Fellow Lisa Denney.

DLP has commissioned seven research projects in this phase, all of which were selected through a rigorous competitive process. These projects cover three countries in Asia and four countries in the Pacific. All projects are led or conducted in partnership with a researcher or institution based in the country of study with local researchers undertaking the large majority of fieldwork. Five of the projects are led by a female researcher, two projects focus on women's leadership and one on leadership by people with disabilities.

A key focus for the Institute’s work is understanding how, and under what circumstances, evidence developed through these research projects does, or does not, inform development policy and practice. This work is being led by Institute Director Chris Roche, the Deputy Director (Impact) for DLP, who is working closely with PhD scholar Ujjwal Krishna to understand the different pathways to impact.

Critically reviewing contemporary development practice notes produced by The Asia Foundation

The Institute is partnering with The Asia Foundation in 2022 to critically review three draft contemporary practice notes which are being produced by TAF's Regional Governance Unit. The notes aim to spur reflection and consolidate learning among the Foundation's governance programs, and with a larger community of practitioners, thinker, and donors. The three notes focus on TAF's coalition approach, learning and strategy testing and locally led development. This project is being led by Institute Director Chris Roche.

Design and delivery of political economy analysis training for DFAT staff

The Institute is partnering with The Asia Foundation governance team to contribute to the design and delivery of political economy analysis training for DFAT staff. The eight-module course is designed for participants to know what PEA is and how it can enhance DFAT program outcomes; be more confident in commissioning and participating in PEA at work and be able to identify and work within a PEA framework.  This project is led by the Institute's Senior Research Fellow Lisa Denney.

Documenting a theory of change for the Fred Hollows Foundation

The Institute is partnering with the Fred Hollows Foundation in 2021-2022 to document the theory of change which underpins the Foundation's current strategy and approach to programming. This will inform a broader review of the Foundation's work against its current strategy and the development of its new strategic plan. The project is being led by the Institute's Senior Research Fellow Danielle Campbell with support from Director Chris Roche and Research Associate Glenn Bond.