Delivering Research to Policy Impact: Reflections from Former Young Lives Director Jo Boyden on the Challenges of Leadership and Governance

Kath Ford, Jo Boyden


In this Insights Report, Professor Jo Boyden, former Young Lives Director, discusses the challenges of successful leadership and management of the complex longitudinal Young Lives study. Jo reflects on lessons learnt over the last two decades, particularly in relation to delivering research to policy impact in diverse country contexts and during periods of unprecedented change, including the current COVID-19 pandemic. Jo is in conversation with Kath Ford, an international development policy consultant and former Young Lives Programme Manager.

Jo offers key reflections on

  • the potential of longitudinal research for influencing policy.
  • getting the right balance between quantitative and qualitative research.
  • aligning academic excellence and policy impact incentives.
  • the importance of understanding country context and local leadership.
  •  building long-term relationships of trust and collaboration.
  • dealing with uncertainty and risk.
  •  navigating changing politics and seizing new opportunities for policy impact.

This Insights Report is part of the ‘Methodological Learning and Lessons from Young Lives’ project, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). This report is part of a series reflecting on specific experiences and practices over 20 years of Young Lives research to create a dialogue with others involved in large-scale longitudinal studies in international development and related fields. You can read more reports in the series at the project web page here.