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.

Stacey Sawchuk
Pacific Resilience Coordinator at ActionAid Australia.
April 2017

What are you currently working on?

The Shifting the Power Coalition, which was formed in 2016 across the Pacific to catalyse localised gender responsive humanitarian action with a specific goal of strengthening Pacific women’s leadership in emergencies, including disaster preparedness, response and recovery. We are building on the existing capabilities of women frontline responders, who play a vital role in supporting the most vulnerable and in ensuring the food security of families and communities in times of crises.

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

The learning forums and workshops have been useful for me as my role covers different thematic areas such as climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction, humanitarian response, accountability and women’s rights. It also provides networking opportunities to engage directly with Australian and regional researchers and practitioners.

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

ActionAid Australia and the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) developed the first ever South Asia Women’s Resilience Index. The Index examines the role of women in preparing for and recovering from disasters, clearly highlights that most South Asian countries fare poorly in considering women in disaster risk reduction (DRR) and resilience building, and that significant gaps between policy and practice are undermining women’s disaster resilience across the region.  It also highlights the vicious circle of vulnerability and disempowerment that results from women’s capacity to build resilience not being realised.


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”.