ACIAR - Knowledge systems and RAPID framework for impact assessments (2015-2016)

In January 2015, Sustineo was engaged to undertake a scoping study and implement a full impact assessment of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research’s investments in research projects aiming at reducing aflatoxin contamination in peanuts in Indonesia and Australia. Aflatoxin is a contaminant of peanuts that poses major human health and economic risks throughout the world. The assessment sought to identify the sustained impacts that investment in research had produced 10 years after the projects’ completion. The assessment specifically focussed on how the different project outputs were being used by regulatory policymakers, research centres and the peanut industry in Indonesia and Australia, and the ultimate impact this has had on aflatoxin risk mitigation.

Throughout this project, Sustineo has worked in close consultation with ACIAR to ensure the best outcomes for all stakeholders. The project required an extensive review of academic and government literature regarding aflatoxin and its impacts on health and development. This was complemented by comprehensive, targeted interviews with project participants, in both Australia and Indonesia.

It became clear that the econometric and quantitative measures often employed in the ACIAR Impact Assessment Series would not be sufficient for understanding the research and policy impact under review. To address this, Sustineo’s team designed a new qualitative impact assessment methodology and conceptual framework in order to better capture the wider range of capacity building and policy implications that the original projects revealed. This allowed Sustineo to identify a broad range of sustained impacts on policy, research and industry within Australian and Indonesia contexts.

The assessment noted that significant impact had been made through the capacity building of Indonesian researchers. Participating research institutions gained developed expertise and garnered international recognition for their work exerted critical influence on relevant policy processes. The project also identified a range of contextual challenges that need to be understood and better integrated in to future research project design. 

The new conceptual framework and qualitative methodology designed by Sustineo was successful in investigating how knowledge generated by ACIAR investment led to sustained change in policy and research. This provided ACIAR with a broad range of tools to assess project impact, and provides a new impact assessment methodology that can be used as part of a mixed-methods project assessment. The report on this project is available online here.

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