Frequently asked questions

Frequently asked questions about the Dutch Knowledge Platforms and the knowledge policy initiated by the Ministery of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.

  • What is the aim of the knowledge platforms?


  • The knowledge platforms were set up in 2011 on the initiative of former state secretary for foreign affairs Ben Knapen. The aim of the platforms is to deepen knowledge relating to development and to make the conduct of research more strategic and less fragmented. Research and the exchange of knowledge through the platforms support policy implementation and help make Dutch developments efforts more effective. They also aim to promote self-sufficiency and development in developing countries.

  • What do the knowledge platforms do?


  • There are five knowledge platforms, four of which are concerned with the main themes of Dutch policy on international cooperation, namely food security, water, security and the rule of law, and sexual and reproductive health and rights. The fifth platform is concerned with how economic growth in Africa can be made more inclusive and sustainable.

    The participants in a platform identify research questions relating to the theme of the platform, draw up a joint research agenda, map the available knowledge and ensure that the knowledge is used. The research is contracted out through the national research council NWO/WOTRO. Lastly the platforms feed the results of research and the knowledge gathered back to policy-makers and to practitioners involved in aid, trade and investment.

  • How are the platforms structured?


  • On the knowledge platforms, researchers from the Netherlands and developing countries work together with companies, NGOs and the government from the start. Each platform has a small steering group of platform members, which ensures that the platform performs its roles and tasks as mutually agreed. The success of the platform and the funding of the research are the responsibility of all participants. All platforms build up a virtual network to disseminate knowledge and identify research questions. Each one has a secretariat that is located outside the ministry. The secretariats are responsible for the daily activities of the platforms and act as the first point of contact.

  • Can I participate in a platform?


  • The platforms are open, independent, often virtual, groups with variable membership. All parties, preferably organized in a network or a community of practice with knowledge of and/or questions about the platform’s themes, are welcome to take part. Examples are government agencies, civil society organizations, research institutes and companies of all sizes in and outside the Netherlands. It is the explicit intention that partners from developing countries take part in the platforms. If you have any questions, you can contact the secretariat of the platform concerned.

  • What is the role of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the embassies?


  • The ministry took the initiative to set up the knowledge platforms and is responsible for funding and coordinating them. Each of the five platforms has a facilitator within the ministry who is responsible for the theme concerned. The facilitators ensure continual coordination between the steering groups, the platform secretariats and NWO/WOTRO. The aim is for the knowledge platforms to become independently operating networks in which the Dutch government is only one of the partners. The embassies can play a role in bringing together relevant actors, including NGOs, companies and knowledge institutes.

  • What do the knowledge platforms do in practice?


  • All the knowledge platforms have initiated activities. They have different structures and working methods. Some of the platforms focus primarily on virtual communication, while others lay the emphasis on physical exchange of knowledge. Some have already issued calls for proposals, others are still developing their knowledge and research agenda.

  • What happens to the results of research and knowledge exchange?


  • All knowledge gathered and produced by the platforms is ploughed back into policy-making and implementation and other practices. The participants and their networks apply the knowledge in a joint learning process. Existing knowledge is made clearer and more accessible, so that policy-makers and implementing agencies can apply it better in their work. Through continual coordination with knowledge-users (in government, the private sector, knowledge institutes and NGOs) research is increasingly brought into line with current developments. That makes research results more applicable to policy practice. As a consequence the government can better underpin its policies and make better choices, so that its efforts in relation to development, trade and investment are more effective. Knowledge is translated into practice by organizing conferences, making research and knowledge more accessible through briefing papers, and involving networks and organizations more specifically in certain themes.

  • How is the research funded?


  • The Ministry of Foreign Affairs makes funds available for contracting out research, as well as for small activities like knowledge surveys, seminars etc. The participants in the platforms are responsible for finding supplementary funding for these activities.

  • How is the research conducted?


  • Requests for tenders for research proposals are issued by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) on the basis of the research agendas of the platforms. Knowledge institutes can submit tenders, usually as part of a consortium with other partners, in the same way that they can submit proposals under the spearheads of the Netherlands’ policy on international cooperation.

    Continue to NWO-WOTRO.

  • Isn’t there already enough research?


  • There is already a lot of research, but the knowledge it generates is by no means always accessible or usable for policy-makers and practitioners. That is why the platforms devote a lot of energy to mapping and using existing knowledge. In addition, there is a need for new knowledge on specific issues that affect many actors. These vary from very practical to more theoretical questions. One example is applied research into the local marketing of food crops. Another (more policy-related) example is successful policy for productive employment in African partner countries. The knowledge gathered and produced by the platforms is ploughed back into policy-making and implementation and other practices. The participants and their networks apply the knowledge in a joint learning process.

  • Who should I contact with further questions about the knowledge platforms?


  • Every knowledge platform has its own contact person at its secretariat. You can find the details in the descriptions of the individual platforms on this site. For any other general information you can contact Saskia Tjeerdsma at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (