What’s happening in this picture?

14 December 2015
Annie Holmes and Priya Pillai

Two men are deep in conversation. On the right is Kimmane Ratnakar, Karnataka State Minister of Primary and Secondary Education. On the left is Raghavendra T, programme lead on Samata, an intervention to keep marginalised girls in school.

The State Minister is asking Raghavendra to share findings from exploratory research on girls’ education in districts in northern Karnataka. The photograph was taken at the Karnataka State Consultation on the New Education Policy (NEP), a culmination of many months of collecting input on the new policy at local, district and state levels of government. 

The State Minister is asking, specifically, about research conducted as part of Samata, an intervention by Karnataka Health Promotion Trust (KHPT) that is being evaluated through the STRIVE consortium. A formative study took stock of secondary school education in northern Karnataka. Researchers identified the structural enablers of and barriers to education, particularly for girls from marginalised communities. Continuing in school is a proven measure to delay girls’ sexual debut and thus reduce HIV risk. 

This may be every research project’s ideal: to have a senior policy maker seek you out and request your findings! How did KHPT’s Knowledge into Action (KiA) strategy achieve this happy milestone?

Engagement

KHPT builds on many years of successful uptake of research at state and policy levels, at local government and implementation levels, and on community organisation. With this institutional expertise and a robust KiA strategy, the Samata team identified, prioritised and engaged with potential users of their findings. 

Should a research group be responsible for outreach and advocacy? This question sparks fierce debate. What everyone can agree, however, is that research should, at the very least, reach intermediaries or ‘boundary partners’ who are well positioned to link research with potential practice. 

In the case of the Samata programme, KHPT efforts resulted in the creation of a boundary partner. On 20 and 21 June 2015, KHPT organised a state-level conference on adolescent girls’ education, inaugurated by the State Minister. Participants went on to form a Coalition of Adolescent Girls, to sustain discussion and action on this important field. 

This engagement contributed to some other early successes. The State Minister recommended that the Ministry of Human Resource Development increase the age of compulsory education to 16 years, one of the key recommendations from the Samata programme and the coalition. 

Ragha, Minister, and crowd watching

The meeting - like the Coalition - includes participants from a wide range of fields. This is a reminder that KiA comprises much more than attempts to speak with policy makers. The Samata team engages with schools and families, communities and panchayats (local government bodies), and national and international NGOs, funders and researchers. The KHPT team does not focus exclusively on Samata findings. Instead, their KiA activities and analysis integrate a synthesis of other evidence, legislation and programming.

References and resources

Supporting adolescent girls to stay in school, reduce child marriage and reduce entry into sex work as HIV prevention in north Karnataka, India

Read the documents that the State Minister is discussing.

Read research updates produced by KHPT and STRIVE on the Samata RCT so far:

Read blogs by KHPT’s KiA lead, Priya Pillai: