GENDER insights

A community of practice to accelerate CGIAR learning on the use of gender-transformative research methodologies for systemic change

A gender researcher presents to colleagues Photo: N. Ronoh & J. Markere/CGIAR GENDER.

A new community of practices offers a safe space for researchers looking to exchange views and expand their work on gender-transformative approaches.

Over the past few years, agricultural research organizations, such as CGIAR, have increasingly realized that the ways in which agriculture, land and water governance as well as food markets are carried out deeply affect the lives and aspirations of the women and men who participate in them, from plough to plate and beyond.

This has, in turn, affected the abilities of women and men to define and achieve empowerment on their own terms, and make the most of their lives. Similarly, the choices of women and men affect how well farming, food production and food consumption systems work. This is why Gender, Youth and Social Inclusion has been set as one of the five impact areas of CGIAR’s  2030 Research and Innovation Strategy.

There is an awakened interest in examining, challenging and transforming the underlying causes of gender inequalities, rooted in discriminatory social structures, to achieve equality between women and men. As a research organization, this interest is expressed through gender-transformative research methodologies. To meet this interest, and benefit from shared experiences, we have initiated a Community of Practice on Gender Transformative Research Methodologies (GTRM-CoP), under the CGIAR GENDER Impact Platform’s Methods Module.

What are gender-transformative research methodologies?

Gender-transformative research methodologies aim to catalyse gender-transformative and socially just change processes during the entire course of research, from design and implementation to monitoring and evaluation. Rather than stop at reaching women and working out how scientific innovations can benefit them, these methodologies straighten out how institutions, norms and practices are interacting to have certain outcomes which hold women (and men) down, so that they can find intervention points that can make a difference.

One of the many examples of gender transformative research methodologies is Gender Action Learning Systems (GALS). GALS encourage collaboration in intra-household decision-making between women and men, with community members and other stakeholders – for example across the value chain – to achieve the personal and household aspirations.

We know that an increasing number of CGIAR researchers and partners are working on developing and using such methodologies in research-for-development projects. They, like we, are realizing that the best way to accelerate their learning and scale it out to others in the shortest time possible would be an ongoing shared discussion space where they could discuss the joys and the struggles of their research, draw on others’ experiences, challenges and best practices, put new ideas into practice, and track the research process along the way.

A safe space for exploring new area of research

This is why we in 2022 initiated the GTRM-CoP. We intend for the CoP to serve as a powerful approach in circumstances with a community of likeminded individuals eager to collaborate around a shared practice towards a shared goal. Particularly because this is a new area of research for CGIAR, it is important for CGIAR researchers to have a ‘safe space’ to discuss their work.

The GTRM-CoP draws its motivation and aspirations from the increasing number of researchers who have gathered around it to share their learnings. It emerged from a series of workshops held in 2021 to discuss the future of GENNOVATE, a unique multi-center, multi-country comparative research program that ran from 2013 to 2018.

The first steps for the GTRM-CoP were to decide what to focus on. The community agreed to narrow the focus down to four more defined topics:

IntersectionalityThe objective is to explore frameworks and tools to understand the multiple intersecting factors, like age, ethnicity, religion and so on, behind women and men’s position in society and what that means in the context of agricultural research. How do those intersections help or hinder positive outcomes?

Gender-transformative research processes and data This is about how research can be conducted, and how people are involved in ways that go beyond being participatory to be more emancipatory and transformative. Who decides research questions? Who analyses data? Who owns the research findings?

Masculinities When people talk about ‘gender’ they often think it is synonymous with ‘women’s empowerment’ but it is much more than that. Even when women’s empowerment is an end, there is a need to focus on the relationship with men, and that means understanding the different ways of ‘being a man’ in different societies. It is necessary  to expand options for all genders because men can be as trapped by conventions as women are.

GENNOVATE data and tools The GENNOVATE program generated a massive amount of data which can inform today’s research. Similarly, the tools that were developed have potential to carry on being used and further developed. After the massive investment, it is essential to make sure that these tools and data are not abandoned but integrated and built on for current and future research.

Learn more about the GTRM-CoP in this new working paper: A Community of Practice for Gender-Transformative Research Methodologies

What can you expect to see next?

Groups formed around the four topics above have begun meeting and agreeing what they would expect, like and love to see their group achieve in the short and long-term future.

Our vision is that the GTRM-CoP becomes an ‘innovation playground’ where researchers can have serious fun, connecting humbly and honestly with their colleagues, to discuss what they know and what they don’t yet know; sharing methodologies, concepts and frameworks with each other; ultimately documenting learnings and sharing them out with the wider community in the form of guidelines, evidence-based good practices and scientific papers.

If you want to join the CoP, learn more on this SharePoint site ( account holders only), or contact Arwen Bailey.

We know that being a gender researcher can be a lonely business. Many projects have only one or two gender scientists so it is helpful to have other experts you can work with. With this CoP, we hope to be able to quell the thirst for more knowledge about gender-transformative research methodologies. Collaborating and exchanging knowledge represents a real chance to make a change in our research practices for more equitable outcomes.