The triple helix and the humanist vocation

Triple helix and humanist vocation

The concept of triple helix, in “The Capitalization of Knowledge“, is well conceptualized for technological fields, but not for the humanities. Institution and (social) services are less relevant in this analysis. However, the most relevant innovations may happen in the processes. And processes are governed by discourse, which, in turn, is lead by the humanities, as we can draw from the insightful column by  David Brooks.

But are processes governed by discourse? Actually, most of us, who works as project managers, had lost this very understanding. Can we blame the logical framework model? Maybe; but, if we embraced it, if even us, grown up among humanities have embraced it, it’s only our mistake. Of course: logical framework model is in itself a discourse, but we have to see it as is it, not something that stay before or above any discourse.

We have to use the right words in the right order: because discourses shape the world, and the processes that happen within this world; understand that the way I describe things is more important that things in themselves. Innovation trees grows within this text woven.

(*) John Webster, master orator at his best at Speakers’ Corner, Sydney, dwld from and P. Mondrian, Broadway Boogie Woogie, dwld from

Research and decision making in NGOs: some hypothesis and research agenda

A very interesting field where test the relationship between research and decision making are the local sustainable development project (LSDPs). In order to clarify the subsequent argument, I characterise in the following table the LSDPs, against the politics and industry fields.

local sustainable development project politics industry
actors NGO, governmental agency, target group legislative, or executive or judiciary body shareholders, directors, employees
target group target group and final beneficiaries whole population, or a part of it clients
final result trained people, empowerment, gain for the participants, etc. law, policy, enforcement, etc. products, gain, etc.

In the same simple manner, I divide the kind of research, from one end (theoretic, wide scope) to another (aimed at specific product, practical).

type A type A-B type B


.wide scope

.aimed at a specific product


basic research (done by university or other research centres) applied research (done by university or other research centres) applied research (done by organizations’ R&D sectors)

The hypothesis, elsewhere supported (cf., is that, in a general way, in the LSDPs sector, few NGOs and governmental agency do type B research, fewer (when they do it) use it; fewer, too, use type A or A-B research. On the other side, the universities or other research centres do type A or A-B research, based on the needs and constraint of the NGOs and governmental agencies, despite of dealing with the same objects and/or peoples.

Of course, the matter is much more complicated and here I try to do the “devil’s advocate” against my own hypothesis, touching upon some interesting cases. In order to understand this cases, I want to present another conceptual scheme, based on tree indicators (related to the relationship between research and LDSPs):

  1. how much the research affects the decision making;
  2. how much the research arguments are used in order to justify the actions that take or will take place;
  3. how much the NGOs, government agencies, target groups and final beneficiaries needs and constraint affect the research agenda.

There are many NGOs that accumulated a great research body. Among the Brazilian ones, tree examples are: the Instituto Socioambiental – ISA [Socioenvironmental Institute], the Instituto de Pesquisas da Amazônia – IPAM [Amazonian Research Institute] and the Instituto Sociedade, População e Natureza – ISPN [Society, Population and Nature Institute]. We chose in purpose NGOs that, while doing or promoting research, are implementing relevant projects aimed at sustainable development, human right advocacy or environmental and cultural conservation. In a first outlook of the researches of each one of these organization, published or announced in their website, we can say that ISA favours type A and A-B researches, while IPAM and ISPN type A-B and B. More in-depth research is needed in order to understand:

  1. who did the research (an external consultant, some of the internal team or others);
  2. whether the research is inserted in a project or not;
  3. if the NGO has stable relationships with universities and of what kind. And, above all:
  4. how much the research agenda is influenced by the need and constraint of the project beneficiaries, and, vice-versa,
  5. how much the research is used by the project team or by the beneficiaries themselves?

Another facet that would be fruitful to investigate is how indicators are used in the project document submitted to founding agencies, or in texts presenting the NGO. Most founding agencies ask the NGOs a filled form, and one of the form field is, usually, about the relevance of the action (see, for example, the form for the EuropeAid/129492/C/ACT/TPS call for proposal). It is common, among project makers, to base this section on indicators, mainly of large agencies, as UNCTAD, FAO, WHO, and so on. But,

  1. in what extent are these indicator used?
  2. which are the most used indicators, and from which source/ agency?
  3. how much are used also fresh research indicators? And, most important:
  4. the overall analysis of the source/ agency is kept, or somehow distorted in order to promote the project, and
  5. are these indicators used only to justify something, or they really oriented the NGOs’ strategic choices?

Finally, a light on this matter may be shed by an issue that gained the stage in recent times: climate change. Without doubt, the relationship between research and decision making is in this field more deep than in many other: it is not accident that the criticism to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change findings reached the mass media, a not-so-common thing for the research world. My feeling is that it is the case also within the NGO mean: probably, here, many much project makers are looking for university researchers, in order to collect arguments to build some climate change related programme. Is that a driving force, promoting a new and wider co-operation of the two worlds?

IV Vale do Ribeira’s Research Seminar

Presenting two posters at the IV Seminário de Pesquisa do Vale do Ribeira:

Fanelli, Luca; Pasinato, Raquel. Sementes tradicionais em comunidades quilombolas do Vale do Ribeira (SP) [Landraces in quilombola villages of the Ribeira Valley].

Oliveira Junior, Clovis José Fernandes; Fanelli, Luca. Populações de palmeira juçara em comunidades quilombolas no Vale do Ribeira [Juçara palm population in quilombola villages of the Ribeira Valley].

Research and action for development

ricercazioneDuring the XXX International Congress of American Studies, Perugia, Italy, May 6-12, 2008, in the panel Amazonia. State of the Art of the Field Researches was debated the relationship between research, mainly in humanities and social sciences, and specifically anthropological, and development projects, mainly non-governmental.

Briefly, was affirmed the epistemological interdependence between research and action and the necessity of the tie between these two practices; at the same time, was noticed the segregation between research actors (mainly university) and development actors (mainly NGOs).

Read a resume of the debate (in Italian).