Our Community

Our Community
Participants at the ACFID University Conference at Monash University in 2015

The RDI Network is made 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 view a summary of our current activities and initiatives for 2017-18 here.

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:


Dr Peter Westoby
Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Queensland
July 2017

What are you currently working on?

​I am currently working on a number of research projects in Australia and South Africa. For example, one in South Africa is examining the community investments that are a requirement of the national renewable energy procurement program. The South African government, via its national energy provider, has procured over 100 large scale renewable initiatives (mainly solar and wind). By law, 4% of profits from these initiatives have to be invested in local communities (50km radius). I am examining how those investments are deployed and benefit [or not] the poor. I am particularly interested in this from the dual perspective of ‘just transitions’, and also private-sector led community development (which is my specialisation).

Why did you originally get involved with the RDI Network?

I became aware of the Network through ACFID news and particularly publicity around conferences. I decided that I would like to get involved with the Network because I want to connect with other scholars who are engaged in development related research and practice. I’ve found that it’s easy to get isolated and I want to connect with a ‘community of scholars and practice’. I am also aware of how easy it is to be captured by the university pressures to simply publish. In contrast, I want my writing-publishing to have meaning in terms of development effectiveness, linking practice, research and policy. The RDI Network is a good vehicle for enabling that.

What do you think is the most valuable aspect of the Network?
I am relatively new to the Network, but already I value that sense of being part of a community of scholars and practitioners beyond my university. I’ve been at The University of Queensland for 11 years but am about to start a new position at Queensland University of Technology (QUT), and I am very keen to build bridges and links between QUT and others, including DFAT. Our impact potential is significant if we are strategic. The reality is that most social science/development related research goes no-where, and is read by very few people (usually only a few other scholars). I think RDI Network can bridge practice, policy and research, such that there is a more effective link, with good quality communication and dialogue. We need more dialogue between each silo. That’s really the crux of it.

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


Dr Susanne Schmeidl
Lecturer in Development Studies, School of Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts & Sciences, UNSW Sydney
December 2017

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on two main research projects that sit at the intersection of peace, security and development, all linked to Afghanistan where I used to work for over a decade.  The first and major one is a book project unpacking how communities negotiate life in insurgency-controlled areas, including going to bat for development and education. The second looks at the drivers of displacement and migration from Afghanistan with an eye on identifying early prevention options, which often lie in the area of targeted development assistance, as well as of course doing development well.

How did you originally get involved with the RDI Network?

I have to admit I am not sure when I officially joined the network, but I attended the RDI conference in 2015 just after I joined UNSW Sydney and met up with the Secretariat afterwards. I actively sought out both ACFID and RDI Network as I believe in the power of networks and felt that it would be a good way for me to get better acquainted and involved with the development sector in Australia. As a non-Australian, with most of my experience elsewhere, RDI Network is an important learning and networking tool for new arrivals to Australia.

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

I can think of three for now, as I am a very keen collaborator! First, we have an internship programme with ChildFund Australia where Development Studies students gain important field experience, but also contribute in a small way to the work of ChildFund’s field offices in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. We are in the second year of the programme and it is going strong.

Second, I run a course on project design where colleagues from the NGO and funding sector come in to judge the final project pitched. I am currently working with the Charitable Foundation to perhaps take it to the next stage where we would solicit development challenges and task students with finding innovative new solutions.

Third, in March this year we collaborated with two other universities (UTS, University of Sydney) as well as two NGOs (Peacifica, Institute for Economics and Peace) on a submission to the Australian Foreign Policy White Paper consultation on “Applying a critical peacebuilding perspective to Australia’s foreign policy”.