Through its programmes and initiatives, SID has traditionally been at the forefront of shaping the theory and practice of development, challenging existing practices and suggesting alternative approaches. Having contributed to pioneering themes such as environment, women in development, the concept of human development, SID has served- and continues to serve - as an incubator for innovative development concepts.
Today, SID positions itself in a space of action that is policy oriented and builds on multi-disciplinary dialogues, future-minded thinking and scenarios-based and holistic policy planning. This differentiates SID from other development organizations focusing on advocacy and service-delivery actions. SID's contribution to this 'policy' space is characterized by three dimensions:
1) Building knowledge through research; 2) Facilitating multi-actor dialogue; 3) Catalyzing policy change
SID acts as a 'knowledge broker' through a number of content-based activities/products: Development, the flagship journal of the Society for in depth discussions, The Forum, an institutional blog for dynamic and informed conversation, the SoEA Report, a data report series with an East African regional focus, and the International Congress, SID's flagship international event being held every four years.
These products are part of an ongoing process of knowledge generation and sharing that seeks to engage leading thinkers and actors not just from the development space, with the ultimate aim of understanding the complex and dynamic relationships between development and the various facets of humanity and society and all levels. While these are products which are being published consistently and regularly on a given time schedule, the issues and themes addressed differ from time to time in response to the changing global dynamics of our economies, politics and societies.
SID acts as a 'policy catalyst' through a policy focused process building on critical analysis and revision of current policy frameworks and their appropriateness in view of changing needs and contexts, within the global and or local spaces. The scope can be: national/regional looking at commitments and achievements within the national and regional development process; global, mostly linked to the policy frameworks and process of the international community. This process involves a 3 step process: (1) policy research and analysis; (2) multi-actors policy dialogue and (3) assistance in policy formulation.
SID acts as 'facilitator and diversity bridge-builder' to explore the future along geographic (i.e. region/country-based scenarios) or thematic (i.e. Trend Monitoring Newsletters) lines. In 1998 SID initiated the unique East Africa Futures programme of research-driven, public interest scenarios initially focusing on the individual countries of the region and evolving into a full-blown regional scenarios exercise. Since then, SID has continuously engaged East Africa's policy actors in a process of reflecting on the possible alternative futures that individual countries and the region might have to face.
While any one initiative might be primarily designed to relate to one of these three domains, knowledge-sharing, policy focus and future orientation can be considered three dimensions that are intrinsically connected to every programme which is developed and implemented by SID.