Guiding Principles for EiE Evidence: Commitments and practices from the E-Cubed Research Fund
The E-Cubed Research Fund strengthens the evidence base for Education in Emergencies (EiE) by supporting the production of contextually relevant and usable research and disseminating global public goods. A global public good is a resource that is freely available with no restriction in access. Dubai Cares partnered with INEE in 2017 to design and manage this research envelope. INEE coordinates the proposal submission and review processes, while Dubai Cares makes final funding decisions.
As E-Cubed closes out its fifth year, INEE and Dubai Cares have identified three guiding principles to E-Cubed’s contribution to the EiE evidence base. These principles are mutually reinforcing and demonstrate E-Cubed’s commitment to building an equitable evidence base.
Principle 1: Gaps in evidence within crisis-affected contexts are best identified by those on the ground
Much of current EiE research is programmatic in scope and driven by the influence of donors and institutions in the Global North. This, despite the fact that communities and researchers affected by crises have the best understanding of the themes and types of evidence that are needed in responding to unique crises. The identification of research questions, design, implementation, and dissemination should be led by or be taken forward in meaningful and equitable partnerships with people and institutions in crisis-affected contexts. Meaningful and equitable research partnerships prioritize the perspective and the work of local researchers at every stage of the research process through a paradigm shift that aligns with key principles of effective partnerships outlined by Menashy & Zakharia in a study funded by E-Cubed.
The five guiding principles of effective partnerships are: (1) Care: A shift from saviorism to care; (2) Trust & respect: A shift from a culture of monitoring and outputs to a culture of trust and respect; (3) Ongoing & organic communication: A shift from a focus on coordination to communication; (4) Mutual learning & multi-directional knowledge sharing: A shift from capacity building to mutual learning; and (5) Self-reflection & interrogation of power dynamics: A shift from power imbalances to self-reflection through awareness and interrogation.
Principle 1 in action: Between 2017 and 2020, the number of proposals for E-Cubed from country-based institutions and combination partnerships made up 75% of applicants, and the two funded projects in 2020 are combination partnerships. E-Cubed remains committed to funding projects led by or in meaningful partnership with people affected by crisis. Additionally, Dubai Cares conducted a global survey of INEE members in 2020 to understand gaps in evidence in response to COVID-19 from myriad stakeholders. This aligns with INEE’s process of regional consultations to develop its learning agenda. Thus, E-Cubed does not identify specific geographic or thematic foci in its calls for proposals, believing that those working close to research contexts are best positioned to put forth relevant research priorities.
Principle 2: The voices of actors who are local to the research context need to be at the center of the research process
Data and evidence must be collected, stored, used, and disseminated ethically and responsibly. Every step of the research process must abide by principles of Do No Harm and respect the dignity and agency of participants. The production of evidence ought to be aware of and sensitive to existing power dynamics. The well-being and safety of participants should precede any potential methodological or programmatic innovation.
Principle 2 in action: E-Cubed requires all proposals to demonstrate meaningful consideration of ethical and cultural dimensions in conducting research in crisis-affected contexts, including the ways in which the voices of people and institutions from these contexts are elevated through the proposed work. In assessing proposals, INEE and Dubai Cares strongly consider an applicant’s plans to mitigate potential risks, alongside respective protocols for ethics review.
While much of the existing EiE evidence base is produced in English, knowledge exists across all languages and cultures. Evidence should therefore be multilingual in both its production and dissemination. Evidence produced in any language is valued equally to that produced in popular languages. Regardless of the language that evidence is produced in, we must consider language and translation throughout the research process. In considering the uptake and use of evidence, we must consider the language of the intended user of the evidence. INEE and Dubai Cares challenge traditional notions of rigor to recognize the value of research produced in all languages.
Principle 2 in action: E-Cubed accepts proposals in INEE’s five working languages (Arabic, English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish) and encourages researchers to apply in the language that is most relevant and comfortable for them. Additionally, E-Cubed research outputs are often produced in the language that is most relevant to the anticipated end user of the knowledge products. INEE and Dubai Cares remain committed to funding projects in a variety of languages and ensuring that translation is not an afterthought.
Evidence includes multiple forms and methodologies, including but not limited to randomized controlled trials (RCTs), qualitative case studies, and the lived experiences of affected populations. There is no perfect methodology to conduct rigorous research. Dubai Cares and INEE challenge the traditional criteria for rigor as being highly quantitative. In contrast, INEE and Dubai Cares recognize that meaningful, usable, and relevant evidence emerges from myriad sources in different forms.
Principle 2 in action: E-Cubed funded projects span various methodologies, including RCTs, case studies, and social network analysis. Many E-Cubed funded projects employ participatory methodologies and collaborate with researchers from the research context to strengthen the quality, relevance, and sustainability of the research by working with and hearing from affected populations. E-Cubed believes that meaningfully engaging with individuals from the local context supports the uptake of global public goods produced. INEE and Dubai Cares are committed to supporting research methods that are best suited for the context and expected users of knowledge.
Principle 3: Evidence and knowledge are global public goods
Global public goods are resources that are freely available with no restriction in access. Access to research and evidence should not be mediated by subscriptions nor payment. All E-Cubed products are global public goods. Additionally, INEE collaborates with the Journal on Education in Emergencies to foster the production and dissemination of global public goods.
Principle 3 in action: E-Cubed publishes all knowledge products in open-sourced formats. E-Cubed is committed to providing accessible knowledge products to all free of economic barriers.
Evidence should be shared in an accessible form, this includes but is not limited to use of visuals, writing style, language, and format. INEE and Dubai Cares supports the production of evidence through alternative modalities in addition to traditional peer-reviewed academic articles to recognize different ways of learning and knowing. Evidence should be free of complex jargon and avoid being highly academic, when appropriate.
Principle 3 in action: E-Cubed has shared emerging outputs in various formats, including webinar presentations, videos, reports, and blogs. One such webinar was hosted via VCIES 2020 (a recording can found here). INEE serves as a hub to curate and disseminate knowledge to ensure that global public goods generated from E-Cubed are accessible and used by INEE’s global membership. E-Cubed is committed to finding alternative modes of sharing emerging outputs and knowledge to be accessible by all.
Stakeholders across all levels of education systems both use and inform data and evidence. Data and evidence should be relevant and usable by system actors, with capacity strengthening when appropriate and needed. System actors, particularly at the national and local levels, should inform the identification of knowledge gaps and data and evidence needs.
Principle 3 in action: While E-Cubed does not fund long-term operational capacity building without a research component, proposals that integrate capacity building opportunities into the research design process and partnerships are encouraged. INEE and Dubai Cares recognize that gaps remain in the use and production of data by actors across the education system with few initiatives strengthening capacity. Specifically, more can be done by the EiE community to better support and ensure that ministries of education are centered in the identification of evidence and data needs. Some E-Cubed funded projects develop partnerships with ministries of education and other relevant actors at the government level from the inception of their projects to ensure that the identification of evidence and data needs are relevant. Closing this gap is a focus of future work.
Embedding the principles
Reflecting on E-Cubed learnings over the years, INEE has adopted and expanded these principles as a guiding framework for a broader evidence strategy. INEE embeds these principles across its various network spaces and activities. These areas span phases of the research process, including the identification of evidence gaps, the collection of data and production of evidence, and the dissemination of new knowledge products.
While these principles guide E-Cubed, they are not definitive. INEE and Dubai Cares continue to refine and iterate these guiding principles to reflect new learnings and emerging insights from the EiE field and the humanitarian and development sectors at large. We recommend organizations adopt guiding principles but not become inflexible or reliant on strict adherence that prevents institutional change when appropriate.
For questions please reach out to the INEE Data & Evidence Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
INEE would like to thank Dubai Cares for their continued championing of evidence for the EiE sector to fund rigorous, contextually relevant, and usable global public goods that are led or informed by equitable research partnerships with stakeholders in crisis-affected contexts. These principles have been co-developed by INEE and Dubai Cares with particular thanks to Nadeen Alalami, Dubai Cares Research Officer.
Nadeen Alalami, Research Officer, Dubai Cares. Nadeen manages a diverse portfolio of Dubai Cares’ research and advocacy programs, with a focus on education in emergencies (EiE). She manages the E-Cubed research envelope, a USD 10 Million research fund which aims to strengthen the evidence base in EiE, by supporting contextually relevant and usable research, and disseminating global public goods. Nadeen holds a BA in Psychology from New York University Abu Dhabi. She has five years
Sonja Anderson, INEE Data & Evidence Coordinator. Sonja is responsible for INEE's work on curating and strengthening the EiE evidence base. She coordinates the various evidence workstreams within INEE. She also manages the E-Cubed Research Fund, including the call for proposals, the designation of eligibility and criteria, and the proposal review process. Sonja received her M.Ed. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in International Education Policy and holds a BA in International Relations from the University of San Francisco. She has six years of experience in the field of EiE. She is based in Seattle, USA.
Jonathan Kwok, INEE Evidence Consultant. Jon supports INEE’s work on curating and strengthening the EiE evidence base. He is pursuing a Master’s degree in International Educational Development with a concentration in International Humanitarian Issues at Teachers College, Columbia University. He holds a BA in International Studies from Pepperdine University. He has almost five years of experience working with multiple EiE and development organizations at both global and local levels in multiple countries. He is currently based in New York, USA.