‘What do knowledge brokers do? #5 – Making knowledge more than the sum of its parts

Governing SDG Interactions,Knowledge brokering,Magazine,News01 Jun 2023Charlotte Stam, Sasha Al Busaidy
Dutch Development Cooperation: 2022 and beyond

In 2022, Sasha joined our  team of knowledge brokers. She completed a bachelor’s at University College Utrecht focusing on Economics, Psychology, and International Development and thereafter obtained her research masters from Vrije Universiteit (VU) in Societal Resilience researching digitalisation and Social Symbolic Work. Sasha has previously lived and worked in Uganda on research projects focused on collaboration between NGOs, as well as between NGOs and governmental organizations. She is passionate about meaningful multi-stakeholder engagement and fostering holistic collaborations toward development outcomes. At The Broker she is currently working on various knowledge brokering projects. In this article she highlights her work on the NWO SDG Interactions project and a learning project on knowledge brokering with LMIC partners.

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’m Sasha Al Busaidy, a third culture kid from Northern Ireland, Oman and Germany. My interest in international development started early; I grew up in Oman, Scotland, The United States, Libya, and Malaysia, which inspired me to pursue a career focused on tackling social challenges. After completing my research masters in Societal Resilience – which brought a big data perspective to society’s most wicked problems – I was eager to find a job where my skills could be used impactfully. I was drawn to The Broker because our work treds a compelling line between research and practice. As knowledge brokers we connect key stakeholders in order to make practical impact in international development, while exploring and thinking critically around the cutting edge of international development theory.

What project are you currently working on?

I am currently working on a joint learning trajectory with four of the DGIS Knowledge Platforms (KPs) on knowledge brokering with Low and Middle Income Country (LMIC) partners, aimed at better understanding the partnership and co-creation dynamics between the KPs and their LMIC partners. This exploration sheds light on divisions of power and the potential advantages working more equitably brings to knowledge brokering in international development.  

We began by synthesizing available literature on knowledge brokering with LMIC partners and then completed learning conversations. By speaking with representatives from the KPs and their LMIC partners, we were able to gain insights into the dynamics of knowledge brokering partnerships. Equity and flexibility emerged as recurring themes and good practices include establishing a dynamic way of working that incorporates co-creation and honors context specificity.  I find this work incredibly relevant and inspiring given its connection with current decolonisation and shifting the power trends in the international development world. 

Alongside this project, I am also involved in a NWO funded research programme on  the  Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) interactions and policy interventions in developing countries. This multi-year project brings together research from the universities in Wageningen Groningen, and Utrecht. The aim is to gain new insights into the interdependencies between the SDGs, the ways in which they can influence each other – positively or negatively – and what their effects and impact are on policy interventions. We expect the research to provide tools for integrated and better substantiated policies for achieving the SDGs worldwide. 

I see our role as knowledge brokers as breakers of silos, connecting people and information in order to produce more sustainable change.

What is the role of knowledge brokering in this project, and what is its added value?

By working simultaneously on these two projects I can see how they showcase the two sides of knowledge brokering: theory and practice. The multi-KP learning trajectory requires deeper critical analysis, while the SDG project calls for the practicalities of connecting researchers, policy makers, and practitioners. The multi-KP learning trajectory examines knowledge brokering as a concept and ultimately sheds light on its added value. Knowledge brokering in international development and especially between the Global North and the Global South is a relatively unexplored area of research.By examining the partnership dynamics and exploring how the knowledge platforms engage in knowledge brokerage with LMIC partners, The Broker contributes to this knowledge gap by combining theory with insights from practice. 

The SDG interactions project puts knowledge brokering at the forefront. The three university projects in the programme are accompanied by a knowledge brokering and synthesis consortium made up of The Broker, University of Amsterdam, and University of Ghana. This consortium serves to bring the three projects’ insights together, building bridges and stimulating closer cooperation to facilitate mutual knowledge exchange and ensure that the research results become more than the sum of their parts. Additionally, as knowledge brokers in the project, we help train PhD candidates on how to engage with relevant stakeholders in their focus countries of Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, or Bangladesh throughout their research work. As a result, their research will be effectively co-created and valorised. I see our role as knowledge brokers as breakers of silos, connecting people and information in order to produce more sustainable change.

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

These two projects are great examples of how The Broker contributes to its mission. Working with the knowledge platforms to investigate knowledge brokering with LMIC partners and obtaining good practices will ultimately lead to more equitable partnerships, centering Southern voices. In connecting the research projects of the SDG interactions programme we are contributing to the achievement of the Agenda 2030 and therefore a more sustainable and inclusive world.

If you are interested in exploring how Sasha could support your project or organization in making knowledge more than the sum of its parts to work towards a more sustainable and just world? Just reach out at or via LinkedIn