The Broker in 2021: seizing opportunities during a year of uncertainty

Knowledge brokering,Magazine,News19 Jan 2022Ninja Lacey

Throughout 2021 – the second year of the pandemic – many of us may have had a feeling of coming to a standstill. The Broker was no exception: after a brief period of returning to the office, the team was stuck back home once more. We all felt that this spell of relief was cut short before we could really benefit from it. However, taking a closer look, The Broker has a lot to be proud of. It may not have felt like it, working from behind our screens – and at times, we admit, in our pyjama bottoms – but 2021 was, in fact, an exciting year of rapid development and inspiring projects for The Broker.

Though 2021 yet again demanded a lot of flexibility and resilience from our knowledge brokers, the pandemic also reaffirmed how important our work is. We have welcomed new members to our team in order to meet the demand for knowledge and knowledge brokering. We embarked on many new projects with new and old partners, tackled challenging topics, and published numerous thought-provoking and well-read articles.

Tip of the iceberg: just a few projects of 2021

The decolonisation of aid

For decades, images of people suffering in the most dire circumstances have called upon our shared sense of humanity, demanding from the privileged to help those who are less fortunate. These pictures continue to drive humanitarianism, but at the same time make many people uncomfortable. Through a series of five webinars on ‘the decolonisation of aid’, initiated by KUNO, Partos and the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), our knowledge brokers showcased the complex roots of humanitarianism, its colonial legacy, and relevant questions that development and humanitarian professionals should ask themselves in their attempt to decolonise the international aid industry. This online knowledge dossier contains all the articles The Broker wrote based on the webinar series

Diaspora inclusion

To generate an in-depth understanding of how diaspora professionals and entrepreneurs in The Netherlands can (and already do) contribute to the sustainable development of their home country, The Broker and The Netherlands International Organisation for Migration (IOM) joined forces to reopen the online dossier on Diaspora Inclusion – which was first initiated in collaboration with Partos. After a warm reception of these articles by a broad readership, The Broker, IOM and Partos decided to collect all insights and stories of the entire project in a colourful magazine which can be downloaded on our website.

Finding focus: the Future Brief series

Decolonisation and diaspora inclusion are only two of the many issues demanding the development sector’s attention. All these topics seem of vital importance to safeguard and advance hard-won development achievements. Together with Partos, The Broker has developed two ‘Future Briefs’ to help organisations in their quest to identify the most pressing topics for the future and highlight the key insights and debates around these topics. The first brief provides an overview of four crucial topics for the sector, while the second brief discusses in more detail the various components and debates central to the issue of ‘Shifting the Power’. Keep track of our website: More to follow in 2022!

Knowledge brokering in practice: Benkadi

In addition to the collaboration with Partos, 2021 also marked a renewed collaboration with Woord & Daad for its new programme ‘Benkadi’. The project, funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the Power of Voices framework, aims to enhance the involvement of citizens and civil society organisations from Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire and Mali in the formulation and implementation of policies related to climate change mitigation and adaptation. The Benkadi project allows us to put our beliefs into practice: fostering collaboration between North and South; using knowledge to realise sustainable (policy) change; and following the lead of Southern partners, while supporting them with our expertise.

Sustainable development and religious organisations

What is the added value of collaborating with religious actors for sustainable development? This question is at the heart of a new 10-month project commissioned by Prisma, the association of Dutch Christian NGOs in international development. After the official kick-off on 14 October, The Broker started its research to determine what knowledge is already out there about working with religious actors; looking for best practices, opportunities, obstacles and debates. For more information about this new project and our initial findings, listen to this podcast (in Dutch) and visit our website.

Our top five articles of 2021

While the largest chunk of our work is devoted to our services and projects, The Broker also publishes articles on issues related to our core themes. Here are the top articles from 2021 recommended by our team:

#1. Dutch Development Cooperation in 2022 and beyond – by Jorrit Oppewal

Knowledge Broker Jorrit Oppewal takes a closer look at recent trends in Dutch development cooperation policy and the choices that lie ahead to strengthen its relevance and effectiveness. Jorrit’s recommendation for the new cabinet: go back to spending 0.7% of the GNI on aid and stick to the chosen focus areas.

#2. Taking a historical perspective on the decolonisation of aid – by Yannicke Goris and Kiza Magendane

As part of our project and online knowledge dossier, this article describes the first online dialogue in the series ‘The Decolonisation of aid’. The dialogue takes a historical perspective on humanitarianism and focusses on better understanding the ongoing debate on the decolonisation of the international aid system, exploring the controversies and finding common ground.

#3. Embrace the Earth: Soil health as a foundation to sustainable food systems – by Yannicke Goris

Investing in soil health should be a top priority to achieve the SDGs. This was one of the main conclusions of an online event on soil health as a foundation to sustainable food systems, organised by Rabobank, the Entrepreneurial Development Bank and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. This event brought together stakeholders from multiple sectors, to exchange their views on the road towards healthy soil across the globe.

#4. A blind spot mirror for evaluators – by Dirk Jan Koch

Dirk-Jan Koch, Special Envoy for Natural Resources of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has been working with a team from the Centre for Global Challenges of Utrecht University to look into the possible side effects of international development work. This article describes a checklist that presents the ten most common side effects of interventions.

#5.  What knowledge brokers do – by our knowledge brokers

Oftentimes, it is difficult to give a good answer when our knowledge brokers are asked: “What is it that you do?”. This is why in 2021 we started the series ‘What knowledge brokers do’. In this series members from our team share their views and experiences, giving the readers an inside look into their work and inspiring projects. So far, our brokers Anika, Hannah and Vanessa have opened their office doors. Keep checking our website and social media, because more team members will follow in 2022!

Our brokers in the knowledge platforms

In 2021, The Broker dedicated a significant portion of its (wo)man power to the INCLUDE knowledge platform and the Netherlands Food Partnership (NFP). Within the framework of these platforms The Broker can do what it does best: broker knowledge to inform and improve policies and practice in the field of sustainable development. Our team has been engaged in a wide variety of activities within these platforms. Here are a few we are particularly proud of:

The pandemic shaping our work within the INCLUDE Knowledge Platform

2021 made us all rethink how to get together, connect and exchange, to meet the challenge of online working and communicating. This digitalisation, however, also presents opportunities; not only for our brokers, but most definitely for development interventions as well. Within the framework of the INCLUDE framework, we delved into the question of how to design, implement and scale digital basic service interventions in an inclusive way. Find out more about this endeavour on the INCLUDE website. Additionally, the pandemic inspired a conference series in which African and Dutch policymakers, researchers, and practitioners were brought together – digitally of course – to discuss how to build Africa forward after the pandemic. In our conference report you can find the summary of the most important findings, discussions and policy recommendations from all seven sessions, offering practical input on how to address structural constraints while promoting fundamental, more permanent and inclusive socio-economic transformation post-Covid 19.

The first year of The Netherlands Food Partnership

The idea of a standstill is certainly challenged when looking at the beginning of 2021, which marked the launch of the Netherlands Food Partnership (NFP). For this platform, digitalisation appeared high on the agenda as well. How can digitalisation be used as a tool to achieve food and nutrition security? And what policy decisions must be made to enable this development? These and related questions were addressed in a multi-stakeholder discussion amongst policy makers and experts facilitated by the NFP and The Broker. An overview of the outcomes is available on the NFP website. The first year of the NFP was a full one and The Broker co-organised various activities, including sessions on the Food Systems Summit and World Food Day, and helped kick off a new coalition for Urban Food Environments, which supports on-the-ground actions to contribute to SDG 2 – end malnutrition.

Looking forward

Following the Dutch political turmoil that dominated most of last year, our knowledge brokers are on the alert for the new coalition’s plans for international development cooperation. We are excited to continue our work with our partners and ready to face new challenges and seize new opportunities. Are you interested in what The Broker could do for you? Would you like to learn more about the projects described here or on our website? Interested to contribute an article to our website? Or partner with us in any other way? Do not hesitate to contact us. It’s a new year – and we cannot wait to get started!