PERFORM’s goal and outcomes focus on enhancing the performance of national social science research systems. The project is taking a systems approach to achieve its goal and outcomes.
The approach is based on a good understanding of the system the project wants to work with: who are the main actors and stakeholders, what are their relationships, what external influences affect the system, and what are the constraints and root causes why the system is not performing well. Understanding opportunities will show potential entry points for interventions that aim for systemic change.
Understanding the system and changes happening is an ongoing effort which we undertake through close dialogue with actors from the community and the wider system.
PERFORM takes a wide-angle lens in its understanding of the social science research system, recognizing that complex challenges are a manifestation of multiple interacting factors. In contrast, traditional approaches in development often boil down complexity to one or two variables, which can then be dealt with through the application of specific technical solutions.
Central to our approach is the dialogue with systems stakeholders and actors. This enhances our understanding of the system, while at the same time stakeholders and actors are involved in a reflective conversation that stimulates systems thinking. That way we seek to facilitate solutions that reach beyond surface-level symptoms. Systems actors need to think in terms of reshaping the system and craft interventions that address root causes of system’s underperformance.
PERFORM’s approach is driven by problems that are identified by systems actors; our approach is not driven by ready solutions (best practices) transferred by external experts. Systems actors are the ones who drive for change.
A very important element in interventions is active, ongoing and experiential learning and an iterative feedback of lessons into new solutions. We aim at engaging broad sets of actors to ensure that reforms are viable, legitimate and relevant — i.e. politically supportable and practically implementable.
PERFORM supports diffusion of feasible new practice across systems.
The project constitutes a neutral facilitator that stands outside of the system and catalyses changes within. Interventions evolve out of an intense dialogue between the project and systems actors; implementation of interventions is in the hands of systems actors.
Systems actors contribute a significant share of the resources for the implementation of the intervention.
PERFORM may also provide financial support for interventions. This will then be geared towards the initial kick-off of a change process or concept preparation. It may include support for networking, initial capacity building related to a particular constraint, and exposure to see and exchange over good practices that may be relevant to systems constraints.