RENEWAL's strategy is grounded in the three interacting processes of action research, capacity strengthening and policy communications, as shown here:

Figure: RENEWAL Modus Operandi
Chart of RENEWAL Program Modus Operandi

We do this for two primary reasons:

First, enhanced impact. There are synergies between research, capacity and communications which, if exploited, may ultimately enhance and sustain impact. Ownership, local relevance and policy impact are strongly associated. Locally-prioritized research is more attuned to the national and regional setting, and the findings are thus more actionable. The reverse link is stronger too, with policy-relevant operational research priorities being generated in the process of implementation. Outreach, as such, becomes easier when research is embedded in local systems. In a sense, the process of "reaching out" has already been done before the study findings are known, through anchoring the research priorities in the local context. We call this "inreach".

Second, enhanced capacity. AIDS has killed many development professionals and researchers in Africa. Mortality within the professional sector continues to rise, with significant impacts on the ability of government to respond to the demand for ongoing and comprehensive AIDS-sensitive policy and programming. This is just one of several major forces eroding capacity - the push of low government salaries, combined with the pull of high salaries and better living and working conditions in the North is another. RENEWAL continues to explore concrete ways in which the civil service and civil society can be supported in their learning, policy formulation and intervention roles. We will consider whether there are new ways in which governments can operate that help to maintain institutional coherence, continuity, capacity and efficacy in the face of high mortality.

RENEWAL has always consciously sought to strengthen both understanding and response - and crucially, the link between the two. Thus, cutting across all themes listed below, particular attention is paid to the ways in which knowledge is generated, legitimated and used, and how and why policies change, or not. Key issues here include: the roles of different modalities of research and how can research generate effective learning processes; differences in institutional and policy innovation at different levels and how key agents of change can best learn from them; and which policy frameworks, processes, and aspects of governance explain the most effective responses to AIDS-food security interactions in different contexts?