High stakes - Engagement with a Purpose

Document Type

Book Chapter



Place of Publication



Reddy, V. R. & Syme, G. J.


School of Business and Law




Originally published as: Chiranjeevi, T., Syme, G.J. & Reddy, V.R. (2015). High stakes - Engagement with a purpose. In Reddy, V. R. & Syme, G. J. (Eds.), Integrated assessment of scale impacts of watershed intervention: Assessing hydrogeological and bio-physical influences on livelihoods. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/book/9780128000670. Original chapter available here.


Experience shows that obtaining a policy change or adoption of new policies could be better achieved when the changes are first introduced on a small scale in different local contexts and then extended to policy level. While most projects focus on sharing the research results mainly with the scientific community and to some extent with the policy makers, this project has focused on first influencing the people on the ground and, through their feedback, the next levels. This project has made a serious attempt to move the process of stakeholder engagement from mere information-sharing sessions to outcome-shaping and action-oriented exchanges.

Unfortunately, stakeholder engagement is treated as a necessary but not sufficiently important activity by projects in general. Thus, a lot more time and thinking is invested in generating scientifically robust research outputs and not enough time is spent on finding users for it. Similarly, stakeholders also do not consider the time spent on research engagements as value adding. Thus, most interactions between researchers and stakeholders remain as mere formalities rather than becoming potential opportunities for implementing or customizing the research outputs. This project would not have been an exception to this general approach if not for the turning point the team experienced during one of its field visits. Interactions with the local communities enlightened the team to the real purpose of the project and how useful it could be to different stakeholders if it was presented to them in a simplified format. With this realization, the project turned its focus away from developing complex models to a straightforward approach with clear rules of thumb or a package of tools and methods. The positive response from the stakeholders at all levels vindicated this change in focus and effort, and the project received support from the authorities to spread the integrated approach throughout workshops and training to the implementing agencies across different regions.



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