The An unusual suspect: the private sector in knowledge brokering in international development Research Project is supported by Science for Using Research (SURe). A Call for Proposals was issued by Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research-Science for Global Development (NWO-WOTRO) in November 2016 to strengthen the scientific base for knowledge brokering in research programmes. This project, awarded for the period September 2017-August 2019, focuses on an increasingly important unusual suspect in knowledge brokering, namely the private sector. There is a considerable body of research on knowledge brokering in international development but it generally focuses on the usual suspects: development practice, policy and research. The involvement of the private sector in international development is being reinforced by the Sustainable Development Goals (UN 2015) because of the private sector’s supposed potential to scale up development initiatives and reach new audiences.

The project will have two research hubs. The Dutch hub will analyse the varied experience of five Dutch knowledge platforms with the private sector, as well European knowledge brokering initiatives. The Ugandan hub will focus on Ugandan and African knowledge brokering initiatives. The project will employ the same mixed-methods methodology (scoping literature review, in-depth interviews, surveys, and online and face-to-face consultation) in both locations so that the hubs will be able to compare findings across contexts and sectors.

For development practice, the project will develop insights into successful modalities for collaborating with the private sector. For development policy, it will provide advice for policy makers and research funders on how to develop a policy framework which facilitates knowledge brokering activities with the private sector, tailored to the NWO-WOTRO and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, while also relevant to other donors and research funders. For science, it will develop new theoretical and conceptual insights on the private sector in knowledge creation and exchange in international development, using a powerful conceptual lens, social capital. For the private sector, it will provide advice on how to engage in knowledge brokering in international development.