Synthesis initiatives in the r4d programme

Synthesis in the r4d programme is understood as the contextualisation and integration of research findings and procedural learnings beyond individual r4d projects into a larger body of knowledge in the science-society-policy interface. The r4d synthesis initiatives provide opportunities for learning and experimentation to increase research impact.

About the synthesis initiatives

From 2017 onwards the r4d programme has launched synthesis initiatives with the aim to maximise the impact of its research results and to contribute to global debates with a focus on the reduction of poverty and global risks. r4d researchers at all career levels in cooperation with external professionals are using analysis, communication, networking and policy influence in working towards the synthesis goals.

Synthesis initiatives are being carried out at the r4d programme level, potentially involving the full r4d network, and in the thematic areas Social Conflicts, Public Health, Food Security, Ecosystems and Employment. On this website you find more information on the initiatives and the contact persons.



r4d programme: Digital Storytellers, a tangible experience of contributions of r4d projects to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The Digital Storytellers project enables researchers to communicate their specific contributions to the 2030 Agenda and its 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) through visual media. With the support of the filmmaker Sonja Schenkel, Paititi Lab, researchers are developing storylines and are filming in the field to produce short video clips that are published on the knowledge for development platform ( For more information: Digital Storytellers website

Contact: Dr. Sonja Schenkel

r4d programme: Utilisation of research knowledge for sustainability transformations

Research knowledge is key to designing and guiding different forms of transformations towards the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda. Aymara Llanque and Johanna Jacobi, University fo Bern, aim to identify how far r4d research projects have advanced regarding the utilisation of research knowledge and how key factors facilitate or hinder the utilisation. The project runs a number of surveys within the research community as well as with stakeholder communities involved in and targeted by r4d projects.

Contact: Dr. Johanna Jacobi and Dr. Aymara Llanque

r4d programme: Dealing with complexity in research for development: Experience capitalisation (CapEx) in the r4d programme

The CapEx aims at eliciting learning on how the r4d programme has faced the complexity of global issues (i.e. problems of a global relevance). By means of this learning, the CapEx aims to have an impact on the design and implementation of future activities, projects and programmes, and on improving the understanding about the competences and resources necessary for undertaking research for development.

Contact: Dr. Carmenza Robledo and Dr. Manuel Flury

r4d programme: Research partnerships as transformative instrument

Pia Hollenbach, University of Lausanne, in collaboration with Nishara Fernando, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Eliud Birachi, International Center for Tropical Agriculture, Rwanda and Elizabeth Jimenez, Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, Bolivia, aim to understand the socio-cultural and institutional components of partnerships. Accepting that partnerships and collaboration in consortia of multiple actors across different countries is challenging and sometimes frustrating, the project works towards a reflection of a new culture dealing with (brilliant) failure to provide the ground for learning opportunities and to serve as an impetus for improvement and change.

Contact: Dr. Pia Hollenbach

Social Conflicts: Research documentary “Inequality and Conflict" and dialogue events

The core of the synthesis work in the r4d Social Conflicts module evolved around the production of the research documentary “Inequality and Conflict – Beyond us and them” and several dialogue events in Indonesia, Guatemala, Switzerland and at the Geneva Peace Week 2019. The production team, the filmmakers and two enablers from the r4d programme collaborated during two years to portray people, places and voices on inequality and conflict, prevalent global issues. The film follows protagonists, presents experts and makes use of the immersive power of images and sound collected in five countries around the world.

Various pre-screenings and dialogue events with policy-makers, civil society organisation and researchers have been organised. Further dialogue events are planned in different places around the world in 2020 with film screenings, scientific presentations and debates to enable science-policy exchanges about "difference as a resource for peace". See also official trailer and short SDG16+ videos from Guatemala and Nigeria on The film is currently submitted to festivals and will be available online around mid-2020.

Contact: Dr. Claudia Zingerli

Public Health: Evidence for change as emerging from r4d public health

Séverine Erismann, Helen Prytherch and Kaspar Wyss, Swiss TPH, aim to go beyond and to complement the scientific products as emerging from r4d public health research by giving emphasis to the dissemination to national and international stakeholders, namely policy makers and global health practitioners, to progress towards universal health coverage. They are conducting a series of webinars with stakeholders that were identified by 15 r4d projects as concerned by their results. A focus lies on gender equity and social inclusion. Conclusions and lessons from the webinars will be translated into a session within the Geneva Health Forum 2020 on 25 March 2020.

Contact: Dr. Séverine Erismann

Public Health: Making a difference in one place

Iliana Kohler and Fabrice Kämpfen, University of Pennsylvania, are synthesising key policy and health systems-related findings of the multi-country r4d projects, initiate a partnership for effective r4d research-to-policy translation in sub-Saharan African countries and engage with stakeholders in one country - Malawi - to develop and disseminate specific and actionable policy and health systems recommendations.

Contact:  Dr. Iliana Kohler and Dr. Fabrice Kämpfen

Food Security: Food Systems Caravan West Africa

The Food Systems Caravan in West Africa was a 8 weeks itinerant and digital and media caravan, which brought the main messages of r4d Food Security research projects to diverse institutions and the general public in the West African countries of Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Benin and Nigeria. It was a collaborative learning journey of researchers and their partners for promoting dialogues and learning events on transdisciplinary and systemic solutions for complex socio-environmental issues within the context of food security. A core team composed of Fernando Sousa, the filmmaker Sara Correia and seven local facilitators from different r4d Food Security projects organised cross-project conferences, seminars, farmers’ field days as well as activities for students and NGOs while documenting this “cross-pollinating process” in film and social media.

See also Food Systems Caravan Facebook page and the Food Systems Caravan website.

Contact: Fernando Sousa

Food Security: Engendering Equity in Food Security Research

Joanna Bourke-Martignoni and Adriana Bessa, Graduate Institute Geneva, consider agricultural research for development as an institution that is involved in the production of knowledge about gender as well as one that constructs gendered knowledge. Through a collaborative process researchers reflect and learn how gender was 'encountered' within their research and consider the ways in which these experiences and the co-production of knowledge about the gendered dimensions of food security could be fed into future projects and programmes.

Contact: Dr. Joanna Bourke-Martignoni and Dr. Adriana Bessa

Food Security: Food and nutrition security in educational institutions and communities in West Africa

Salimata Pousga, Université Nazi Boni Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, focuses with her synthesis team on the implications of research projects as conducted in the r4d programme and beyond on food and nutrition security in educational institutions and communities in West Africa. They use an audit method and survey to collect and analyse the data.

Contact: Dr. Salimata Pousga

Ecosystems: Achieving SDG 15: co-benefits and trade-offs with other SDGs

The team around Albrecht Ehrensperger, Centre for Development and Environment, University of Bern, uses qualitative comparative analysis to examine whether synergies and trade-offs of SDG 15 with other SDGs appear in distinct combinations and patterns, and to assess whether these combinations or patterns are linked to context-specific variables. This synthesis project identifies promising alliances, among various governance sectors and stakeholders, towards more sustainable land governance in 14 project regions. Network analysis is used (i) to highlight governance sectors and stakeholders that would particularly benefit from collaborating in view of implementing the 2030 Agenda, owing to multiple synergies between their sectors and (ii) to point to potential governance deadlocks between different sectors that are concerned by complex mutual trade-offs.

Contact: Dr. Albrecht Ehrensperger

Ecosystems: Utilisation of research knowledge produced by r4d projects in the field of ecosystems management

René Eschen, CABI Switzerland, Bruno Ramamonjisoa, École Supérieure des Sciences Agronomiques Forêts, Madagascar, and Purity Rima, Kenya, collect information from research partners of eight r4d projects about the level of research knowledge use on different spatial scales with help of a questionnaire survey and semi-structured interviews. In addition, the team compares the perceptions of project partners with those of selected (potential) beneficiaries of research knowledge to learn about ways to improve utilisation of research knowledge.

Contact: Dr. René Eschen

Ecosystems: Dealing with complexity: burden or opportunity for research on ecosystems?

The r4d projects related to ecosystems management span across countries, topics, disciplines and approaches. They are, in essence, like the issues they are tackling: complex. These projects do not simply deal with ecosystems; they explore socio-ecological systems whose complexity stem from the interaction of a myriad physical and socio-economic factors. The main objective of this initiative led by Daniel Catillo, Javeriana Unisversity, Colombia, Anne Giger Dray and Patrick Waeber, ETHZ is to understand and capture their inherent complexity. This is particularly relevant if project findings are to influence and generate changes in systems management, a critical challenge in sustainability science. Across the eight r4d projects under scrutiny, we anticipate common traits that deserve specific attention: multiple stakeholders with oftentimes conflicting views, changing environment with pervasive uncertainty, integration across scales, multiple feedbacks, heterogeneity of social values, perceptions and behaviour and different types of network connectivity, among others.

Contact: Dr. Daniel Castillo

Further information on this content




Dr. Carmenza Robledo EcoExistence Bruechstrasse 132 CH-8706 Meilen


Dr. Claudia Rutte Swiss National Science Foundation Wildhainweg 3 CH-3001 Bern +41 31 308 2241


Dr. Claudia Zingerli Swiss National Science Foundation Wildhainweg 3 CH-3001 Bern +41 31 308 2174