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Opening ceremony for Indonesian Science Fund

Strengthening Policy-Relevant Research in Indonesia

Better use of research, data, and analytics yields more effective and inclusive development policies

Good public policies not only depend on access to high-quality data, innovation, and evidence but also the country’s willingness to use it. To ensure policymaking is more effective and inclusive, Indonesian stakeholders have worked to increase quality knowledge production and use of evidence by government entities, promote evidence-based public dialogue, and overcome systemic barriers in the knowledge-to-policy process as a result of support provided by the Knowledge Sector Initiative (KSI) project, implemented by RTI with funding from the Australian government.

A Holistic, Approach to Strengthening Indonesia’s Knowledge Sector

In support of Indonesia’s goals to improve public policy by applying research, analysis, and evidence, KSI helped strengthen the knowledge sector by incorporating research, analysis, and evidence in policymaking, with the goal of enabling the Government of Indonesia to improve the lives of its citizens.

KSI’s approach integrated four components—knowledge production, knowledge demand and use, knowledge intermediation, as well as the enabling environment—within a knowledge ecosystem. KSI facilitated collaboration between policymakers, researchers, civil society, media organizations, and regulatory bodies to produce policies to benefit Indonesia as a whole.

Improving Research and Collaboration to Better Inform Public Policy

Policy Research Institutes (PRIs) are vital policy actors in Indonesia and play an essential role in reforming the knowledge sector and informing policy through evidence-based research.

To be valued and effective thought leaders, PRIs must produce high-quality and policy-relevant research as well as strategically engage their networks. This helps PRIs and other groups better advocate the results of their research and contribute to the policymaking cycle. To maintain the independence and credibility of the public and government institutions, PRIs’ financial sustainability is also paramount.

KSI helped PRIs build financial independence and research integrity by providing grants, technical assistance, and fostering collaboration with other stakeholders in the research and policy sectors. Through this support, PRIs were able to increase the quality and policy relevance of their research, improve evidence-based communication and advocacy for policy influence, and strengthen their financial skills. This also led to better analysis, broader networks and profiles, more financial sustainability, and ultimately stronger influence.  The impact of these actions is tangible: a total of 33 policy changes were influenced by KSI-supported research at the national and local levels.

Increasing Access to Policy Research Funding

To help create sustainable and accessible funding streams for research institutes, KSI’s partners helped the Indonesian government analyze, reform, and adopt new regulations related to the procurement of research. KSI supported partners in the drafting of key regulations to make this policy reform a reality – fundamentally changing the knowledge-to-policy ecosystem.

KSI built awareness and brokered relationships between government and policy research institutes to begin using a new procurement mechanism to fund research. A collaborative approach involving feedback from the government and the PRI resulted in long-term improvements regarding how research is procured, who is able to access funding, and the diversity of policy research expertise the government can engage.

An Example of Engaging Stakeholders to Put Policy into Practice

PPH Universitas Atma Jaya (PPH UAJ), with support from KSI, formed a Technical Working Group (TWG) represented by academics, the Ministry of Health, mental health advocates, and civil society organizations, to conduct field research on the accessibility of health services at health centers in Jakarta and to produce technical guidelines for organizing mental health services in general and pandemic situations.

According to PPH UAJ, the stakeholders mapping exercise introduced by KSI was crucial for identifying key collaborators for TWG. This engagement built ownership of the research findings and strengthened collaboration between PPH UAJ and policymakers, including central-level government agencies, research, and academic circles.

Examples of Policy in Action

During the height of COVID-19, education was one of the most adversely affected sectors. To better understand the impacts of COVID-19 on the education sector, the KSI-supported SMERU policy research institute conducted research on learning inequality during the pandemic and produced several recommendations on how to mitigate the situation.

These recommendations included using more systematic efforts to improve the quality of learning from home and better prepare teachers to take into account variations in student learning abilities so that underachieving students would not fall further behind. These recommendations were adopted by the Ministry of Education and Culture as one of the measures to mitigate learning inequality during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This action represents a key achievement and turning point. It not only demonstrates the improved collaboration between PRIs and government institutions but resulted in tangible policy changes. Due to this timely research and policy impact, the Australian government recognized KSI with the “Most Significant Policy Change” award in 2021.

Evidence-based Research for Equitable Growth

Evidence-based research also produces improved development policies that lead to more inclusive and equitable growth. For example, KSI supported the BaKTI Foundation, the Regional Research and Development Planning Agency (Bappelitbangda) of South Sulawesi Province, and Payo-Payo Farmers’ School (Sekolah Rakyat Petani/SRP) to study the value chain on an important local commodity—silk—and produce a series of policy recommendations.

KSI introduced these local institutions to a knowledge-based policymaking cycle, where a priority regional policy agenda is supported through an applied study to inform the basis of a policy. In this case, the study captures the realities of the silk industry throughout the entire value chain in the Soppeng, Wajo, and Enrekang regencies. The collaboration produced a number of findings and holistic policy recommendations to inform the South Sulawesi Provincial Government in formulating policies to support the development of the silk industry.

Promoting Inclusion

KSI also promoted more consideration of gender and social inclusion initiatives to be part of the policy process: 

  • Developed and disseminated a reference document on “Bringing GESI Perspective in Doing Research
  • Advocated for a more inclusive annual event design and implementation of the National Planning Agency’s Indonesia Development Forum (IDF)
  • Hosted several knowledge exchange events on topics that aim to advocate GESI-related policies to the Ministry of Research and Technology
  • Increased support for the Australia Indonesia Disability Research and Advocacy Network to influence policies for people with disability.