Newsletter to Development Researchers of Finland from the MFA #1

April 10, 2019

UniPID disseminates the newsletter created by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MFA) targeted at researchers dealing with developing countries or global development issues regardless of the academic discipline. Read it to see how the ministry co-operates with development research institutions and researchers. In addition, it includes information on linkages between development research and the knowledge based management of development policy and development cooperation.

A NEWSLETTER TO DEVELOPMENT RESEARCHERS IN FINLAND

Ministry for Foreign Affairs support to development research

Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MFA) has well established long-term cooperation with several research institutions as follows.

Academy of Finland

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Academy of Finland have jointly financed the DEVELOP- research programme. The MFA and Academy of Finland have made financing decisions in 2017-2018 to support a dozen of research projects from various disciplines, worth 9 m€. This is slightly more than during the previous rounds of the programme. The Academy of Finland is committed to conduct activities related to the enhancement of researchers’ links to non-academic publishing, dialogue and networking. For more information, see

http://www.aka.fi/en/research-and-science-policy/academy-programmes/current-programmes/develop/

Nordic Africa Institute

The MFA supports the Nordic Africa Institute (NAI) in its activities through core financing. NAI has a wide research programme and a lot of connections to the African and Nordic research networks. Finland benefits from NAI activities (in addition to publications etc.) through the following:

  • A position for a Finnish researcher.
  • Scholarships, including a short term (a month) visit to NAI library in Uppsala See https://nai.uu.se/scholarships/
  • Possibilities to attend networking activities, including Nordic Africa days held usually every second year in September.
  • Events in Finland. Open thematic seminars.
  • For easy access to information it is useful to order the NAI newsletter https://nai.uu.se/about/orderform/

UNU-WIDER

United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER) is a unique blend of think tank, research institute, and UN agency – providing a range of services from policy advice to governments as well as freely available original research.

MFA supports the UNU-WIDER with core financing. In January 2019 Professor Kunal Sen started as the director of UNU-WIDER and launched a new work programme for years 2019-23. The programme is titled ‘Transforming economies, states, and societies (read more: https://www.wider.unu.edu/research).

In addition to core financing, the MFA supports UNU-WIDER through project financing on country-specific work in Mozambique and Tanzania as well as research activities on domestic revenues and taxation issues.

Finland benefits from UNU-WIDER through the following:

  • A collaboration with a uniquely placed policyresearch institute whose programme fits well with Finland’s goals for development cooperation and delivers value for money.
  • Knowledge and experts available for engagement with Finnish stake holders and MFA.
  • Aupporting a UN entity in Helsinki that has established a large and engaged network of researchers and policymakers, particularly from the Global South.
  • Cooperation with the Helsinki Graduate School of Economics through a course on development economics.
  • Openaccess research and databases.
  • Easy access to open seminars, workshop, and large conferences in Helsinki on topics around the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its goals (SDGs).
  • Providing access to Wednesday seminars. See https://www2.wider.unu.edu/crm/content/seminar-series-2019
  • In order to know more about the activities and events it is useful to order the UNUWIDER newsletter https://www2.wider.unu.edu/crm/content/profilecentre

ECDPM

European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM) is a policy oriented research institute specialized on the EU development policies. The MFA provides it with core financing and receives some specialized support on the themes under its expertise. This is especially useful now that Finland is heading towards the EU chairmanship taking place on the second half of 2019. For more information see https://ecdpm.org/

Commissioned studies

The MFA has recently started piloting a new instrument for conducting commissioned studies on development policy and cooperation. The studies are identified on the basis of proposals by the MFA staff to fulfill their urgent information needs and need for discussions related to the key issues of Finnish development policy. The MFA manages the Terms of Reference and researcher selection with the support from the UniPID (Finnish University Partnership for International Development) which is a network of Finnish universities to advance universities’ global responsibility and to strengthen their response to global challenges.. All researchers interested to be available for possible commissioning are welcomed to share information on their expertise at the UniPID infobank: http://www.unipid.fi/infobank/. it should be noted, however, that the financing for these commissioned studies is rather limited and the usefulness of the instrument will be reviewed after the piloting phase 2018-20.

World Bank

The World Bank (WB) aims to become a knowledge bank with a wide array of services. In addition to its massive research programme and open-access publications, it is also engaged in extensive training activities. See information on the Open Learning Campus. https://olc.worldbank.org/

In addition to core financing, the MFA has supported the Knowledge for Change Programme of the WB.

Research as a component of development projects

MFA engages in some development projects, which aim at generating new knowledge, increasing the research capacities of the partners, creating applied research networks and sharing the existing research knowledge. The projects can generate new country specific data on sectors like agriculture, innovation opportunities and energy production. Since development policy implementation is closely linked to information sharing in many forms, it is impossible to distinguish the research element in the development projects. It is fair to say that many government agencies (e.g. Finnish Environmental Institute, Finnish Meteorological Institute, Geological Survey of Finland) and Finnish universities are actively involved in many sectors and many countries.

The administration of research in the MFA

The MFA has various administrative arrangements for advancing the development research. The organizational set-up can be described as follows.

Foreign policy planning and research

Research and analysis covering the whole spectrum of foreign policy issues is commissioned and coordinated by the Unit for Policy Planning and Research. These studies are mainly for policy planning purposes of the MFA. They may also provide support to the leadership of the ministry or can serve public diplomacy purposes. The Unit for Policy Planning and Research is also responsible for the foresight activities in the MFA and acts as the point of contact in government-wide research, analysis and foresight activities. For further information please see https://um.fi/foreign-policy-planning-and-research

Institutional cooperation on development research

Development related research is managed mainly by the Department for Development Policy. The Unit for Development Policy is managing the cooperation with Academy of Finland, NAI, UNU-WIDER, commissioned studies and ECDPM. For more information, please contact senior adviser Pekka Seppälä.

Development research working group

The MFA has a working group for development research, lead by the Department for Development Policy. The working group is an informal platform for the MFA departments to share information on development research.

Knowledge-based management

For a policy making institution, making management decisions on the basis of facts, evidence and analysis is crucial. How the knowledge is created, supported and utilized are key issues in knowledge management. The MFA has engaged, like the whole Government of Finland, in knowledge-based management initiatives. This includes many parallel initiatives.

The possibilities and challenges of knowledge-based management are well documented e.g. by Sitra. See https://media.sitra.fi/2017/11/10161643/Knowledge-in-decision-making-in-Finland-2017.pdf The ministries are guided towards utilizing new information collection and processing tools, conducting policy experiments, and networking within the government and externally.

In the implementation of Finland’s Development Policy this includes, for example:

  • Results based management. Setting clear targets for the Development Policy and development cooperation. Setting indicators and monitoring arrangements. Systematising analysis and assessment of progress, to adjust and learn on the basis of the results information.
  • Setting clear and well understandable mechanisms for quality assurance and risk management.
  • Utilising information from evaluations and peer reviews.
  • Utilising information from expert networks and research.
  • Involving the data sources described above to guide the decision-making processes.

In this set-up, research is one element in the larger framework.

Strengthening the researcher – MFA staff cooperation in the field of development policy and cooperation

The Finnish research community is very wide and it approaches development issues from many angles. It has a massive expertise on various development issues and this expertise could be further utilized for the benefit of the Development Policy and cooperation.

There is wide interest for sharing information and views on both sides. There are also many existing cooperation linkages between individual staff members and researchers. The MFA is currently considering how these contacts could be better utilized in order to understand each others “language” (i.e. the way of framing issues) better. The MFA officers are generally interested in short applied studies, preferably with problem-solving orientation.

The MFA encourages the research community to share their research results and take part in development policy discussion in Finland on the basis of the findings. Research can also be shared directly to the relevant MFA officers. It is useful to provide a one-pager which summarises the key results or conclusions.

Small steps towards the direction of strengthening “researcher – MFA staff co-operation” include the following:

  • The commissioned studies provide a platform for establishing contacts and learn from the researcher community.
  • The MFA provides continuously Studia Generalia –lectures and thematic workshops to the MFA officers. Usually the presenters include representatives from the Finnish research community. The initiative for the topic as well as practical arrangements are generally made by the MFA with relevant researchers/ research institutions.
  • The MFA will conduct some expert discussions with researchers on the usability of the research results for development policy implementation in 2019. These discussions relate to our work with the Academy of Finland and the Nordic Africa Institute.
  • The MFA has commissioned an evaluation on knowledge-based management in order to understand the scope of possibilities and constraints. The evaluation will be completed and the results will be published in the autumn of 2019. The report will be available in the MFA site on evaluations https://um.fi/development-cooperation-evaluation-reports-comprehensive-evaluations

In order to further improve researcher-MFA staff cooperation the MFA will also do as follows:

  • Provide semi-annually an open newsletter to the development research community in Finland, related to the relevant research/knowledge-management activities.
  • Utilise the UniPID infobank as a practical source for information on research expertise. Infobank provides currently the most extensive information on development research in Finland.
  • Invite Finnish development researches to inform the MFA on all new publications, statements and policy briefs. This can be done through announcements to the Development Policy Unit of the MFA (email address ) by any researcher. Kindly place words “Development Research Result Announcement: …” or “Tutkimustietoa kehityskysymyksistä: …” in the subject field. The Unit for Development Policy uses its expertise to share the information to the relevant MFA officers. Please note that this is useful only when the related publication is attached to the email in open-access format or as an open-access link.

April 2019
Ministry for Foreign Affairs
Department for Development Policy
Unit for Development Policy

Photo credit: Juska Wendland, 2013, on Flickr.