Ways of working for sustainable development
IIED works at the crossroads of policy, research and advocacy, with the aim of furthering sustainable development internationally. To what extent does IIED really contribute to this ambitious goal? An obvious, but ultimately unsatisfactory way to answer this question would be to focus solely on the outputs and outcomes of IIED’s work, and assess their impacts. This would be unsatisfactory because the impacts of individual outputs and outcomes are often impossible to judge, and because, in a perverse way, requiring an organization like IIED to demonstrate its impact would be likely to reduce its effectiveness.
A less obvious but more satisfactory approach is to focus on the ways IIED claims to be working, whether these are the most effective ways for IIED to work towards achieving its goals, and whether IIED is indeed working in these ways. This paper represents a first step in this latter approach.
The term ‘ways of working’ implies a focus on the process through which something is done rather than just on the output or outcome. It has become increasingly popular in discussions of policy research. This is in recognition of the problems with monitoring and assessing policy-related research and information initiatives in terms of their formal outputs and outcomes. It also emphasises the importance of examining how research is carried out, the relationships that are developed, and the lessons that are learned along the way.
This paper considers what ways of working means within IIED and considers the diversity of spaces IIED occupies and actors it works with in order to help contribute to the achievement of its mission.