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Capacity to conduct health research among NGOs in Malawi: Diverse strengths, needs and opportunities for development

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Gooding, Kate ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4926-0287, Newell, James N. and Emmel, Nick (2018) 'Capacity to conduct health research among NGOs in Malawi: Diverse strengths, needs and opportunities for development'. PLoS ONE, Vol 13, Issue 7, e0198721.

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Abstract

Background
The role of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in health research has attracted growing attention. NGOs are important service providers and advocates in international health, and conducting research can help NGOs to strengthen these service delivery and advocacy activities. However, capacity to conduct research varies among NGOs. There is currently limited evidence on NGOs’ research capacity that can explain why capacity varies or indicate potential areas for support. We examined NGOs’ capacity to conduct research, identifying factors that affect their access to the funds, time and skills needed to undertake research.

Methods
We examined research capacity through qualitative case studies of three NGOs in Malawi, including one national and two international NGOs. Data were generated through interviews and focus groups with NGO staff, observation of NGO activities, and document reviews.

Results
Availability of funding, skills and time to conduct research varies considerably between the case NGOs. Access to these resources is affected by internal processes such as sources of funding and prioritisation of research, and by the wider environment and external relationships, including the nature of donor support. Constraints include limited ability to apply for research funding, a perception that donors will not support research costs, lack of funding to hire or train research staff, and prioritisation of service delivery over research in funding proposals and staff schedules.

Conclusion
The findings suggest strategies for NGOs and for donors interested in supporting NGOs’ research capacity. Above all, the findings reinforce the importance of initial capacity assessments to identify organisational needs and opportunities. In addition, the need for time and funding as well as skills suggests that strengthening NGOs’ research capacity will often require more than research training.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: W General Medicine. Health Professions > Health Services. Patients and Patient Advocacy > W 84 Health services. Delivery of health care
WA Public Health > Health Problems of Special Population Groups > WA 395 Health in developing countries
Faculty: Department: Clinical Sciences & International Health > Clinical Sciences Department
Clinical Sciences & International Health > Malawi-Liverpool-Wellcome Programme (MLW)
Digital Object Identifer (DOI): https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0198721
SWORD Depositor: JISC Pubrouter
Depositing User: Stacy Murtagh
Date Deposited: 10 Jul 2018 11:00
Last Modified: 11 Jul 2018 08:27
URI: https://archive.lstmed.ac.uk/id/eprint/8890

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