No single factor more powerfully affects the course of a country's development than the quality of its governance. Where governance is open, accountable and effective, and where public policy promotes innovation and equity in a lively economy, development is more likely to serve the interests of the people. Informing good governance describes this urgent purpose of development research—to discover, assemble, and communicate the knowledge needed for development that is sustainable and democratic.
To improve lives, especially the lives of poor people, development research will almost always have to influence policy in order to influence development. But how? That question and some illuminating answers are the subject of this volume. The exploration recorded here—extraordinary in scope and methodology—has uncovered critical variables in the interaction of development research and policymaking. More than that, it presents evidencebased strategies that researchers and policymakers can deploy to bring timely knowledge to bear on public policy and action.
The research evaluation outlined in these pages has already had effect in our own organization, Canada's IDRC. IDRC's support for research is now more than ever directed to drawing together researchers from developing countries, citizens, and members of the policy community in the design, conduct, and application of research. In development research, getting a new discovery into policy and practice is just as important as the discovery itself. Increasing the productivity of our investments in development research has been one of the immediate rewards of this evaluation project, but not the only one.
The more extensive significance of the findings is simply put. Research, done right, can fortify the elements of democratic governance essential to sustainable development. By strengthening a country's capacities for discovering, sharing, and using knowledge, development research helps governments become more transparent, responsive, and successful.
As many of the cases profiled here suggest, research can contribute to better governance in at least three ways. First, research encourages open inquiry and debate. Second, it empowers people with the knowledge to hold governments accountable. And third, research enlarges the array of policy options and solutions available to the policy process.
Open inquiry and debate—real freedom of thought and expression—are basic to sound democratic governance. Public and tolerant arguments, without fear of reprisal, along with a readiness for change are all marks of a society that encourages innovation. Research also generates the evidence, and the habits of fair-minded analysis, that can help resolve disputes peacefully and accommodate differences.