Our Community

Delegates at the RDI Conference 2019 at La Trobe University

The RDI Network is made up of individuals who share an interest in research for impact in international development.

Our community includes NGO staff, academics, consultants, policy makers, students and more. To join the RDI Network community, become a member today.

Get Involved
As a Network, we rely on the voluntary contribution of time, knowledge and engagement from our community to advance our goals.

You can find a summary of our current program theory of change here [PDF] and details of our activities and initiatives for 2018-19 here [PDF].

All community members are invited to get involved in the Network’s activities. To find out how or to express you interest in contributing, please contact us. Suggestions of new initiatives or activities are also welcome.

Meet our Members
To get to know our community, find below some brief interviews with some of our members:


Federico Davila
Research Principal (Food Systems) at the Institute for Sustainable Futures – University of Technology Sydney.
June 2018

What are you currently working on?

This is a new role for me. I am currently developing a number of projects with local partners in Southeast Asia, taking a soft systems perspective to food and nutrition security. This means focusing on interventions at either the farm, value chain, or consumer end to tackle issues of food, gender, water, and climate in an integrated way. My focus is using soft systems to reveal how human values and institutional design respond to pressing food system issues.

  How did you originally get involved with the RDI Network?

I have been exposed to the network since its inception, largely in my time as a PhD Scholar at the Australian National University. Most recently, I have joined the Network’s community and have been involved in discussions on the research-policy interface to improve development outcomes.

What do you think is the most valuable aspect of the Network?
The fact that the network exists and enables a research-policy debate in the Australian development community is highly valuable. If you think of the network as a ‘knowledge system’, it has strong legitimacy through diversity of members, credibility through the quality outputs they produce, and salience given the critical need for evidence based development practice. The network’s impact has been on enabling this knowledge system to expand in Australia and provide a forum for development researchers and practitioners to come together.

Can you provide an example of cross-sector collaboration that you’ve been a part of in a past or current role?

An interesting cross-sector project I was involved in 2016 was with colleagues from the ANU, the University of the Philippines Los Baños, and the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture. This project involved researchers, knowledge brokers, and smallholder farmers and sought to reveal pathways for diversifying agricultural systems in two Philippine islands. The value of the project lay in using a simple systems framework to integrate agronomic, qualitative, economic, and climate change knowledge to present possible future systems for different agricultural systems. You can find the summary here.

Jennifer Kelly
Senior Innovation Broker, Agriculture and Global Change Research Program at CSIRO.
March 2018

What are you currently working on?

​I am working on an initiative that explores transformative innovation systems and the SDGs, in particular agri-food systems.

Historically, innovation has delivered food and prosperity, but also negative environmental and social consequences. This initiative is about recognising that sustainable and transformational innovation in, and of, agri-food systems is particularly challenging. The magnitude of the performance changes needed to supply growing amounts of safe food and support rural livelihoods, whilst at the same time reducing resource use and the environmental footprint and inclusive growth, is daunting. By unpacking the different dynamics underpinning transformational innovation, such as different types of partnerships and practices for research organisations and other interested stakeholders, we hope to help catalyse and enable transformational innovation in agri-food systems and help progress towards the SDGs.

When did you originally get involved with the RDI Network?

I have been a member of the RDI network since it started. Being part of a network of people working on similar challenges was an attractive offering. I have a strong interest in collaboration, and building partnerships with research and development actors that support progress towards development outcomes and goals like the SDGs. Systems challenges like the SDGs cannot successfully be addressed by individuals.  It is a team sport and being members of networks like RDI Network is an important opportunity to find people with skills, expertise and an interest in tackling such challenges.

Can you provide an example of cross-sector collaboration contributing to impact in your current work?

An example of a cross-sector collaboration I have been involved in was the Food Systems Innovation initiative (FSI), which ran from July 2103 to November 2016. The main goal of FSI was to improve the impact of ODA-supported agriculture and food security programs in the Indo-Pacific region.  It focused on fostering innovation in agri-food systems development and practice, by linking Australian and international expertise and partners through the exchange of knowledge and experiences; cross-sectoral, systems thinking; hands-on-experimentation with novel approaches; and partnership-building. The experiment was designed to shape, pilot systemic integration across key Australian agri-food organisations and actors by facilitating the innovation process. The initiative acted as a bridge, broker, and knowledge convenor enabling institutional change, and learning dynamics among the different actors and system components


Bronwyn Spencer
Associate Director – International Programs (Pacific), UnitingWorld.
October 2018

What are you currently working on?

At UnitingWorld, I oversee all our Pacific-based programs. Currently in the Pacific, we are building on our Theological Approach to attitudinal and behavioural change in supporting Churches to be positive agents of transformation in families and communities. The Pacific is predominantly Christian and as such Churches hold significant power in the community in determining what is socially and culturally acceptable from a biblical faith basis.

UnitingWorld has been utilising this approach in working with Churches for the last 3 years on gender equality and the elimination of violence against women, girls and children – especially as experienced in the home – and found it to be very effective in engaging and motivating Churches. We are now applying a similar approach to work on Child protection and care, disability inclusion, and climate change and disaster response. We will facilitate an evaluation of the regional gender equality work later this year and conduct research into the approach in the Pacific Christian faith context as an effective mechanism for sustainable social change early in the new year.

How did you originally get involved with the RDI Network?

I become aware of the RDI Network through the ACFID council and then through a number of conferences where the benefit of the crossover between NGO work and relevant research was clearly apparent. Given that UnitingWorld was doing new and innovative work with this Theological Approach in the Pacific, and the increasing awareness of the power and importance of Churches in the Pacific, UnitingWorld was invited into collaborations with current research.

Recently, the RDI Network commissioned research into how to effectively work with Churches in the Pacific for research (forthcoming) – and UnitingWorld was invited to have a representative on the steering committee. This enabled us to share our local knowledge and relationships to maximise the consultation and reach with relevant actors for the research.

What do you think is the most valuable aspect of the Network?

Sharing and learning is vital for both the research and practitioner aspects of development work. Both avenues bring valuable strengths to the table. The RDI Network provides this table. Research informs development practice and movements in development practices directs the need for research. It is a learning circle and everyone benefits.