You are here

Policy Labs are key to GDN's strategy


A GDN Policy Lab is a space purposefully designed to enable high-quality interactions between researchers and policy actors (broadly understood) who work on/about that same issue, at a specific moment: i.e., when research agendas are being defined.

The logic of a GDN policy lab is twofold:

  • to offer researchers an opportunity to engage with potential users of their research, exposing researchers to the kind of answers policy actors need at a time when research questions are still being defined
  • to include policy actors in the process of discussion and definition of research priorities, sensitizing them to the potential contribution of research to their work

GDN Policy Labs have therefore two main outcomes: research agendas of direct interest to policy constituencies on a specific issue; and the creation of an early demand for research findings amongst potential users in policy and practice.

The concept and format of GDN policy labs are central to GDN’s strategy: i.e., to strengthen the salience of policy relevant research produced in developing countries. The labs are a response to two key limitations of existing research-policy engagement practices: one, the tendency to reduce policy engagement to translation and dissemination work, at the tail end and often as an afterthought of research; and two, the related expectation that researchers and policy actors can each understand and operate in the other’s professional worlds, including guessing what the needs of policy actors might be (for researchers) and being able to read and use academic publications (for policy actors and practitioners).

The premise of a GDN Policy Lab is that even though different groups of actors are part of the same broader ecosystem, these groups work within their own modalities, professional identities and incentives structures. This tends to reduce the scope for systematic and meaningful interactions that could otherwise advance their work in mutually beneficial ways. GDN's Policy Labs attempt to engineer these interactions through attentive design, using tools and formats of interaction that are geared to offer a comfortable and engaging space where the feedback loop between producers and users of knowledge can influence future research agendas.

The format -- adaptable for in person and online situations -- appeals to researchers with a strong interest in a specific applied topic, and who highly value the societal and policy impact of their work. Policy actors typically include policy makers and implementers, media professionals, NGO practitioners and consultants with a mix of decision-makers and working/implementation level experience. The labs also help GDN and its donors better understand the needs and aspirations of Southern researchers and policy actors involved in GDN programs.


GDN's organizational strategy  
❖  GDN's policy labs on Education policy in LAC countries | Impacts, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change | Press freedom | Biodiversity and development

GDN labs are adapted to the needs of individual programs. If you want to know more about the structure and design of the labs contact Francesco Obino at