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:

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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.
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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

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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”.