International sustainable development and conservation agendas can help regional decision makers to frame their own agendas. Agendas can guide programs and initiatives that drive funding and capacity development for research, and the research, in turn, provides knowledge, evidence, capacity building, and impetus for action. Deficits in research capacity, knowledge, and funding confound efforts on the impact pathway from agenda to outcome. Smallgrants programs can play an important role in filling these gaps.
In this paper, we evaluate a suite of impacts of a small-grants program linked to a regional research agenda for the Andean forest landscape. Using the concept of additionality, and analyzing the database of applications for the solicitation process and responses to a questionnaire by awardees, we evaluated the effects of the funding on research input, outputs and outcomes, and transformative application to sustainable development. We found that the solicitation process, which yielded 180 applications, fell short of its goal of attracting applicants well distributed among the Andean countries, applications from women, and applications for interdisciplinary transformative research projects. Nevertheless, the 15 projects that were funded did ultimately cross disciplinary lines, result in diverse outputs and outcomes, and help to advance work toward achieving sustainable development and biodiversity conservation in the Andean forest landscape. We recommend that small-grants programs that focus narrowly on a topic or region be supported and that they strive to elevate regional researchers and women in the community of practice.
Keywords: Aichi biodiversity targets; Andes; biodiversity conservation; impact evaluation; research capacity; small research grants; sustainability agendas; sustainable development goals; montane forests.
Peer-reviewed: April 2020 Accepted: June 2020