The Advancing Local Leadership, Innovation and Networks (ALL-IN) program, supported by USAID, supports African researchers in development economics and related fields who have the skills, talents, and ideas to take the lead in defining research priorities while drawing on US university-based mentors to enhance their capacity in implementing and managing large-scale research projects. Shifting research leadership to African countries provides the historically under-resourced research community the funding to continue to develop while utilizing their clear pathways to policy impacts. This article addresses some of the basics and frequently asked questions (FAQs) of the ALL-IN initiative.
ALL-IN is a USAID-funded collaborative research grant program between The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Markets, Risk & Resilience (MRR) and the International Centre for Evaluation and Development (ICED). Over its five-year funding cycle, ALL-IN is supporting 12 projects with a maximum award amount of $450,000. Funded research was selected by the ALL-IN Advisory Board based on its criteria of high-quality, policy-relevant research in African countries relevant to Feed the Future and USAID priorities.
All selected recipients of research funding under ALL-IN will be onboarded as an independent cohort and then become part of the MRR Innovation Lab’s virtual research consortium, which will meet annually for peer review and feedback on projects. These meetings, along with other ad-hoc meetings as appropriate, will provide the opportunity to further enhance capacity, create opportunities for future areas of inquiry and both broaden and deepen research networks for all participants.
ALL-IN research priorities follow three themes:
Each proposal was required to identify the lead-PI from the Africa-based research institution and have an identified mentor from a US-based university. If research teams had difficulty identifying or contacting a mentor, the ALL-IN team helped to facilitate the connection. Following USAID practice, ALL-IN defines a local African institution as 1) majority African owned and/or managed and 2) majority African board of directors.
We encouraged applications from researchers and institutions that have the skills, talents, and ideas for impactful research, even if lacking in experience implementing and managing large-scale research projects. As part of this award, the ALL-IN collaborative team provides, as needed and appropriate, support to researchers and their project managers in strengthening the capacity to manage and lead this award and others of a similar nature in the future. This award is intended to provide the opportunity to institutions – both researchers and staff – to learn by doing, in collaboration with mentors and peers at the ALL-IN management institutions.
The inaugural call for proposals received over 160 expressions of interest and over 120 full proposals applications. All proposals meeting minimum requirements were assessed by two external reviewers, who evaluated the proposals based on technical merit and potential for policy integration and adoption, providing detailed commentary and recommendation in their reviews. The reviews were prepared anonymously and submitted to an advisory committee for final decisions.
We recognized that the experience of researchers that might apply will be highly variable. While strong proposals will be awarded immediately, we received several proposals that identified promising ideas with specific gaps in the initial proposal. These researchers were invited to revise and resubmit based on the feedback provided by the anonymous external reviews and draw in additional research capacity as needed to supplement the researchers’ skills, talents, and ideas. In the end, 12 projects were selected and awarded grants to implement their research.
The current ALL-IN Project cuts across six (6) African countries and based in 9 institutions of higher learning as follows:
Selected research projects further the mission to generate and transfer into action innovations that will bolster resilience, keeping rural individuals, households, communities, and markets in positions of economic viability from which they can sustain and accelerate a path of inclusive agricultural growth.
Effectively meeting the mission described above requires shifting the locus of research control to economists in African countries. ALL-IN is designed to provide the historically under-resourced African economic research community the resources it needs to fully engage and further develop and to fully utilize local institutions’ clear pathways to local policy impacts. African researchers will take the lead in defining priorities and will then draw on US university-based mentors for support as needed to enhance their capacity in implementation and management of large-scale research projects.
The ALL-IN Research Network (ARN) was founded as a result of the ALL-IN initiative, with the main aim of strengthening the capacity of local researchers in the Global South. The ALL-IN grant recipients are also registered members of the ARN platform. On this platform, they can share their expertise in respective subject areas by providing training for other ARN member researchers. They also benefit from capacity strengthening in webinars by guest experts or fellow researchers, focusing on topics of interest to them. Finally, the platform offers them an opportunity to present their papers and receive feedback from their peers or give feedback to their peers.
The ARN was founded as a result of the ALL-IN initiative as there was a clear need to strengthen the capacity of the researchers, especially in the Global South, to be able to write competitive research proposals and budgets.
The ARN is open to all researchers in sub-Saharan Africa.
Researchers can register to join the ARN by filling out this form.
No payment is required to register as an ARN member.
No payment is required for participation in any of the training offered through the ARN Platform.