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Politics & Ideas: An open research agenda

Creating a research agenda is always an exciting job. On the one hand, we are always seeking for overarching structures and frameworks that can help us to see our work in a more strategic and coherent manner. And on the other hand, inquiry requires flexibility for the unexpected and for surprises along the way. To balance these challenges, we have decided for an open research agenda. This means we will try our best to avoid having an implicit agenda, and instead make ours explicit allowing others to comment on it, correct it and nurture it in the process.

A warning, though, is required: this will be a messy process.  After years of supporting researchers, I have seen the perils of maintaining a balance between focus and flexibility in a research process. The reader of a final research paper might not see this messiness, but along a series of posts reflecting on the research agenda, we hope to make this enlightened chaos more visible; our readers will get a “behind the scenes” perspective on the development of our research agenda.

Consequently, we will make an effort to see our own work critically. After all, work such as our Topic Guide on Research Agenda and Production gives us some lines of self-inquiry, to actively engage in a public discussion on how and why we carry out the research we take up.

As you can see from the sections in the website, the research agenda was originally born as a subset of topics and research questions, namely: politics, ideas, communications, capacity development and funding. This is always how we start, but it should not be how we end. Having compartmentalized slots of inquiry organises our work but it might prevent us from embracing the out-of-the box thinking that is precisely necessary for new concepts and ideas to emerge.  That is why along the process of tuning our agenda, we will be discussing the interrelation of our five main topics in an attempt to connect them and discuss them in a holistic manner. The literature review and the research that will be carried out in the following months will enrich this discussion and hopefully enlighten our concepts.

Our agenda has a purpose. We want to provide researchers and practitioners in the developing world with relevant knowledge and advice about the links between Politics and Ideas. And in order to achieve this we must challenge the current perspectives on how politics and ideas interact. As a result, we expect to reach a wide audience that includes both practitioners and researchers interested in these issues.

To achieve this goal, readers will encounter different types of reflections. We expect to revisit old and to explore new cases related to the topics within our agenda. This might happen at the country, policy or organizational level. After all, more of them are needed to have a comprehensive understanding of the issues at hand. But along the process we will also venture to discuss and propose frameworks and concepts that guide us in the debate on politics and ideas.

We will keep asking, how do we understand these issues? And, through which lenses do we see the issues at hand? Are these relevant to the realities of the contexts in which researchers and practitioners live and work?

It is my hope that throughout the following months a variety of working thesis, venturous claims and arguments will emerge and in turn allow us to see the links between Politics and Ideas in a much wider and richer perspective. This means that we will challenge the dichotomy between theoretical and applied research and see them as intertwined dimensions of the same questions.