The Global Shared Research Agenda: Learning about the ‘how’ as much as the ‘what’

Throughout 2020, a participatory process has been underway to shape the Global Shared Research Agenda (GSRA). This is being done through a global priority setting exercise to identify where major gaps lie and what major questions need to be addressed for the field to make progress towards ending violence against women and girls (VAWG).

This has been a complex process but what has become increasingly clear is that the GSRA is not just about ‘what’ is being created but also ‘how’ it is being created.

Research agendas are often shaped by the ideas and priorities of the same individuals and organisations, often from high income countries (HICs). Buzz words such as ‘participatory’ and ‘inclusive’ are used to describe research processes but these are not always meaningfully practised.

The GSRA process has been created to bring these values to life. It has been intentionally designed to open space and facilitate dialogue so that a diversity of voices are heard and acted upon to shape research priorities as well as the process itself. As a result, the GRSA development process is adaptive and flexible, responding to participant feedback and needs. The focus is on decolonising the research process – challenging the ways we define research and being directed by historically excluded and unheard groups in the research field as to what they think is important.

To achieve this aim, the GSRA process is driven by three groups:

  • The Stewardship Group, which includes representatives from SVRI and The Equality Institute, tasked with the coordination of the process and overseeing design, reporting, analysis, and dissemination.
  • An Advisory Group of approximately 30 experts in the VAWG prevention and response field, across multiple geographical contexts and diverse backgrounds.
  • A Global Expert Group made up of more than 500 people from both lower and middle income countries (LMICs) and HICs working on VAWG prevention and response, including practitioners, frontline service providers, indigenous people, grassroots organisations, people with disabilities, LGBTQI populations and culturally and linguistically diverse groups.

This structure is enabling decisions to be made in collaboration with people all over the world, with a focus on privileging voices from LMICs and from historically marginalised groups. For example, the first meeting of the Global Experts Group was open to all 500+ members and was held through an online platform which enabled real time translation. This meeting included a panel discussion focussed on how agenda-setting and research can be decolonised and made more democratic and inclusive.

“It was wonderful to hear about the process you're using - I think many of us are trying to figure out better ways of democratizing and decolonizing research agenda setting processes.” Global Expert Group Participant

“I loved how diverse the group is - there were lots of people I didn't know and very much enjoyed meeting them. I love that this process is bringing in new voices.” Global Expert Group Participant

The GSRA research priority setting exercise has adopted a methodology which is focussed on prioritising a diversity of perspectives. This is adapted from the CHNRI method, first developed by the Child Health and Nutrition Initiative (CHNRI) as a new type of democratic methodology that considers the views of multiple stakeholders. This method is based on the idea that many voices are better than a few and produce better outcomes or decisions.

Adapting this method, the GRSA process to date has included:

Step 1: A broad scoping review: This included a review of the literature to highlight research gaps and provide a framework to guide the priority setting process.

Step 2: Question gathering: Based on the topics and gaps identified in the scoping review, four key domains of research on VAWG prevention and response were identified. The Advisory Group provided advice and feedback on the domains and through an online survey generated a list of research questions. The Advisory Group also commented on the criteria for prioritising and scoring the research questions.

Four key domains of research were identified:

  • Domain 1: Research to understand VAWG in its multiple forms
  • Domain 2: Intervention research
  • Domain 3: Improving existing interventions
  • Domain 4: Methodological and measurement gaps

Step 3: Consolidation: The Stewardship Group consolidated the survey responses from the Advisory Group and with guidance from the Advisory Group refined the list down to 10 questions per domain.

The process is currently at Step 4, with the development and dissemination of a second survey to the Global Expert Group. The survey will include the consolidated research questions and ask the Global Expert Group members to score the questions against a set of criteria. This is also an opportunity for members to highlight gaps and suggest additional research questions. The survey will be available in 7 languages to enable people from multiple geographic locations to participate in the process in their own languages.

“This is the first process I've been involved in recently that seems to take decolonizing research very seriously" Global Expert Group Participant

It is anticipated that the GSRA will be launched in June 2021. As the GSRA moves forward, the process will continue to be refined in response to the diversity of voices shaping the Agenda – as we learn not only about the ‘what’ but also celebrate the ‘how.’

For more information on the Global Shared Research Agenda on Violence against Women and Girls, contact Elizabeth Dartnall at elizabeth@svri.org.

Visit the webpage here

Also published on preventvawg.org.

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