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FEATURE: In conversation… with Alex Hannant, CDKN Head of Partnerships


Simon Maxwell: Alex you’re head of the Partnerships programme of the Climate and Development Knowledge Network. I can see that some of our partners could be governments, some could be political leaders, some will be think tanks, some will be researchers, some will be people we’re just contracting with. Do we have different kinds of relationships with different kinds of people?

Alex Hannant: On one level we have to work with different groups to deliver the core services of the CDKN, but I think the opportunity is also to generate, another layer of relationship with those bodies and providing a learning network, where organisations and individuals who don’t usually get together, but need to get together can share their experience.

Simon: There is a risk isn’t there with this kind of project, which is centrally funded, which is working around the world, with a rapid turnaround of lots of projects and many different kinds of projects going on that we sit at the hub and issue instructions out to the periphery, if you like. Is that your model of partnership, I suppose I hope not?

Alex: No, not at all I mean the relationships have to be owned where relevant, they have to be owned locally. The role of the central hub is to try and support the regional hubs in developing those relationships and then also tie the learning, between the regions, back together at the global level.

Simon: Now there are quite a lot of knowledge networks of varies kinds. Are we adding value, are adding something that isn’t already there?

Alex: Yes we are. The thing about a lot of these groups is that a lot of the time the conversations happen internally. What we’ll be doing is making a link across sectors, so the people who are key in making the decisions and taking the actions can understand where their respective piers and their respective colleagues all play a role to get the outcomes that we’re looking for.

Simon: Quite a lot of us are talking, as we have these conversations, about the gap that often exists between research, on the one hand, and policy making on the other. You’ve added another important gap which is the gap between sectors and when we talk about climate compatible development, there’s another gap between people who work on climate and people who work on development. And I guess we could add another gap which is the gap between the regions who often work completely independently.

Alex: And the challenge is providing the space where we can bring all those disparate and different groups together so making sure that research institutions that have been developing knowledge understand the political context of how that can be applied to policy making; bringing together practitioners who are working on the ground together with the private sector, which understand investment flows and creating new market opportunities. So we want to create the space, we want to be a broker; we want to provide environments where people feel safe, are enabled to share knowledge and exchange and can keep a sustained relationship over time.

Simon: Are you going to try and do everything at once or will there be some prioritisation?

Alex: I think we have to start small and we have to make sure that we do the right things you know in the first place and scale up beyond that. So a lot of the focus is going to be working closely with the regional hubs, finding out who the key players are in the regions, providing the space, bringing those parties together, then also bringing in other actors in this space.

Simon: We’ve talked about a few countries where we might start work, or hope to start work – Colombia, Rwanda, Ghana, Mozambique, Zambia, one or two countries in Asia. In each of those the countries I tried to imagine what your partnership building programme might look like and I find myself wondering is this a one off quick intervention? Is it a long term intervention? How many countries do you think you can realistically work in at any one time over the five years of this project?

Alex: I think the country relationships are critical. That’s where we’ll be delivering the services, but we will also be doing a lot of work on a regional basis.  So in the Africa region, a lot of these programmes are working across borders. They have a transboundary focus, and a lot of the climate change issues are transboundary by nature.  So with partnerships we’re really looking to enable the enablers: the research institutes, the think tanks, the policy influencers, other actors in this space, so how can we bring them across regional barriers so they can support the effort at the national level.

Simon: Let’s move forward five years and look back, what will make you happy?

Alex: In five years time we want to see some really concrete outcomes.  We want to see our primary partners, the national governments with policy processes, which are evidence based, being implemented with successful outcomes. We want to see a sustained learning network between research institutions and policy think tanks and civil society, practitioners. We want to see greater cooperation between the regions, between the developed and the developing countries.

Simon: Good I’ll be back in five years to celebrate those achievements.  Alex, good luck. Thank you very much.

Alex: Thanks Simon.


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