‘What do knowledge brokers do’ #4 creating a framework for equitable partnerships

Knowledge brokering22 Mar 2023Charlotte Stam, Rikke van der Veen

Last year, Rikke joined The Broker as a knowledge broker. He is a great addition to the team because of his broad background in international development cooperation. Rikke followed the Advanced Master in International Development of the Radboud University (RU), worked for RVO (the Netherlands Enterprise Agency) on topics ranging from youth participation and government accountability to sector transformation towards more inclusive and sustainable economies, and is co-founder and board member of an education initiative Maya Universe Academy in Nepal. As a knowledge broker, Rikke currently works on projects for The Netherlands Food Partnership (NFP) and for Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation (WCDI) part of Wageningen University and Research.

In this edition of ‘What do knowledge brokers do’, Rikke will zoom in on the collaboration between WCDI and The Broker and the role of knowledge brokering in this project. 

In this series ‘What knowledge brokers do‘, we share perspectives from our knowledge brokers on various knowledge brokering trajectories in our projects. With this, we aim to give you an inside look into our work and answer the question “What is it that you do?”

Who are you and what are you most excited about working at The Broker?

I started working as a knowledge broker at The Broker in November 2022. I am excited to work at The Broker, as I have been noticing that in international development cooperation new programs and policies tend to repeat mistakes, while there is a lot of knowledge on best practices and lessons learned available. While governments, NGOs and other actors might not use all the insights available due to organizational or political interests, it is often due to a lack of time. This is a pity as that knowledge could be translated into improved practices. In my role as knowledge broker I want to connect knowledge and stakeholders to support organizations in making informed decisions and developing and implementing evidence-based programs and policies.

What project are you currently working on?

For the Netherlands Food Partnership, I am currently working on distilling best practices and lessons learned for facilitating impact coalitions and partnerships for food system transformation. This aligns quite well with the project for WCDI, as WCDI aims to contribute to sustainable, inclusive and resilient food systems and aims to do so by building sustainable, and equitable partnerships with organizations in the Global South. 

In their words, WCDI “recognizes that bringing together different perspectives and (sources of) knowledge broadens the base from which innovations and solutions for global challenges can be designed. Working in equal partnerships and ensuring embedding and ownership where it belongs enhance adaptable solutions and (joint) implementation, with sustainability and meaningful impact as results.”

WCDI is exploring how to put this into practice and turned to The Broker for support in establishing equitable partnerships. Previously, The Broker did a mapping of NGOs and CSOs for WCDI to provide input for the partnering strategy. This time, the assignment specifically focuses on partnerships with knowledge institutes and networks in the Global South. 

The exciting, yet challenging part is that it touches upon current debates about shifting the power and decolonization of aid and knowledge within our sector. This is a hot topic for good reasons. However, an often-heard criticism is that this shift in power is again imposed by Northern policymakers and organizations instead of being led by actors from the Global South. I think it is interesting to facilitate conversations between WCDI and their Southern Partners on this topic and to gain insights on how to use their experience in improving partnering practices. 

What is the role of knowledge brokering in this project, and how is knowledge brokering of added value within this work?

As knowledge brokers, we explore partnerships and map existing partnerships between WCDI and knowledge partners in the Global South. Besides, we are developing a framework for strategic and equitable partnership development with knowledge partners in the Global South, together with external consultant Victor Rutgers, who specializes in collaboration for international education. We do this by combining a short literature study with insights gained through interviews with WCDI staff, their partners in the Global South, and external experts with different regional and organizational backgrounds working on partnership development.

Based on the literature study and the interviews, we are creating a  framework that helps WCDI to further develop current and new collaborations into strategic partnerships that are equitable. The goal is to develop a framework based on shared definitions of concepts like equity and inclusivity. This challenges WCDI to learn from their past collaborations and continue exploring partnerships. In the next two months we will organize a feedback session with all the interviewees to deepen our common understanding of the framework and will further explore two practical cases together with WCDI and their Southern partners. By including both the partners and the end-users of the partnership framework in its creation we improve the accessibility and useability of the final product. This is a method called co-creation, often applied in knowledge brokering.

How does all of this line up with the mission of The Broker for a more sustainable and inclusive world?

At The Broker we believe in the power of knowledge for a more inclusive and sustainable world. To come back to where I started, I think it is important to gather lessons learned from practice to build on our past failures and successes. The theme of working towards more equitable partnerships very much fits with the mission of The Broker to work cooperatively towards long term social transformation. Furthermore, WCDI aims to use lessons learned from practice to improve future practices, which is precisely what we at The Broker think is needed for sustainable development. 


If you are interested in exploring how Rikke could support your project or organization in working towards more equitable partnerships and translating knowledge into improved practices. Just reach out at or via LinkedIn


Here you can find the previous entries in this series:

‘What knowledge brokers do’ #3: working together for healthy diets for all

‘What knowledge brokers do’ #2: How basic services turned digital

‘What knowledge brokers do’ #1: Looking into Africa’s COVID-19 response