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Working with the grain and swimming against the tide: Barriers to uptake of research findings on governance and public services in low-income Africa.

Research into the governance of public goods provision in sub-Saharan Africa confirms that bottom-up pressures from voters and service users are a weak factor in improving performance. It suggests placing emphasis on how different types of political regime approach the provision of public goods, and on the enduring importance of working with service providers as well as clients. However, getting ‘uptake’ of these findings into development policy and practice is difficult, and this paper asks why. Obstacles exist at two levels. At an intermediate level, the dissemination of WDR 2004 and related studies through teaching, guidelines, blogs and books has systematically over-sold certain simple messages about information and community monitoring. More fundamentally, incentives, ideologies and vested interests stand between research and the adoption of its findings by the development business. This aspect of the problem of research ‘uptake’ needs to be taken more seriously by all concerned.