Why a Strategically Selected Research Team is Key in Securing Grant Awards

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A case of ALL-IN research team from Nigeria’s Ahmadu Bello University

Access to funding opportunities remains a staggering challenge to many development researchers in the Global South. This can be attributed to varied factors including limited knowledge on what donors consider when screening research grant applications. In addition to the requirements for the grant application process, some of the criteria used in shortlisting are silent and many applicants end up missing these in their proposals.

Under the Feed the Future’s ALL-IN research initiative, an innovative collaboration between the International Centre for Evaluation and Development (ICED) and Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Markets, Risk & Resilience, we are picking some lessons on what researchers must do to generate fundable proposals. Key of them is the choice of a research team.

Professor Peter Njiforti, a Principal Investigator (PI) under ALL-IN, is leading a team of researchers from Nigeria’s Ahmadu Bello University, developing and testing a Sharia-compliant takaful mutual insurance contract that triggers payments in the event that there is a weather anomaly. The results of this project could unlock the financing needed to drive the development of inclusive agricultural value chains in the region.

Peter attributes his securing of the ALL-IN research grant largely to his carefully selected team.

Recently, the ALL-IN communication team had a chat with Professor Njiforti to gather insights on why the choice of a research team is key in unlocking funding opportunities for researchers in Africa:

How is your research team composed?

The composition of the research team was strongly guided by the multi-disciplinary nature of the research topic and problem. The research team members were carefully selected based on their unique expertise and experience in previous research activities that are directly related to the research topic.

Other strategic consideration in choosing members of the research team includes opportunity to leverage on the structures and networks of key institutions where the research team members are drawn from to facilitate the implementation of the research activities.

Gender was also an important consideration, although the opportunity to increase the number of female researchers in the team was limited by the need to ensure that all the members of the team are relevant and have the needed expertise

Another key consideration in selecting members of the research team is experience and opportunity for mentoring junior colleagues. I tried to balance the need to have highly experienced researchers on the team and some junior colleagues that could be mentored.

Diversity both within and outside Ahmadu Bello University was also an important consideration given the multi-disciplinary nature of the research. To achieve this, we identified researchers from sister departments and institutes within Ahmadu Bello University and outside Ahmadu Bello University.

What informed the choice of this composition?

The research team was composed this way for two main reasons. The first is to ensure that we deliver on the research and ensure that the highest quality standards are maintained. The second reason is strategic to ensure that we leverage on the relevant institutions that are important in delivering on the research.

Would you consider team composition key to securing research grants?

From our experience, we would argue that team composition is important to winning grants for the following reasons:

  • The ability to assemble the best team sends the right signal to funders that the objectives of the research will be achieved.
  • It also goes to demonstrate the preparedness of the research team in addressing challenges that could emerge in implementing the research.
  • The composition of the research team also indicates the capacity of the research team to use the local resources and advantages in addressing potential problems that would arise in the process of implementing the research.
  • The blend of the researchers in the research team indicates the extents to which the complexity of the problem is appreciated, which is important finding a solution.

Through their research, Njiforti and his team hope to address the lingering food security and poverty challenge in the study region; address the sociocultural sensitivities of farmers in the study region; find solutions to the low level of investment in agriculture in the study region due to climate risk and lack of resources; address the increasing vulnerability of the study region to the negative effects of climate change and variability as well as put in place an environment that could catalyze the development of structures and institutions that could develop and deepen agricultural value chains in the study region.

To date, ALL-IN has funded twelve projects to develop and test financial and market innovations that take the most promising agricultural tools for rural families in developing economies from the lab to the field. These projects are led by local researchers spread across Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria and Malawi.

For more information about Njiforti’s project, please visit: http://bitly.ws/Ln5E