Explore researchers reflect on their journey

Research teams from countries across Southeast Asia provide feedback to improve phase 2 of the research network on forest landscape governance.

As the first phase of Explore comes to an end, its researchers came together in Bangkok to reflect on their journey of developing forest landscape governance research proposals. Twenty-nine people, university researchers eligible for grants and program partners, collectively brainstormed the progress, lessons learned, and ways to improve effectiveness to inform the design of phase 2.   

Representatives from 18 research teams reflected on the grant mechanism, capacity development, community of practice, communication, and knowledge management support provided by Explore since the program began nearly two years ago. They also discussed knowledge and advocacy priorities in forest landscape governance and challenges and opportunities for gender and social equity. 

Explore supports them in designing and delivering high-quality research to improve Southeast Asian governments’ policies, institutional frameworks, and practices for inclusive and sustainable development of forest landscapes.  


The researchers found Explore’s support overwhelmingly positive and appreciated the technical guidance, mentorship, and resources provided by the initiative. They said Explore’s capacity-building sessions and inputs to improve researchers’ plans on gender inclusion, communication and advocacy strategies, and participatory action research were most helpful. 

“Because gender and social inclusion is a priority for Explore, we got the chance to design projects that promote equity as a core goal,” sai Muhammad Alif, a research team leader from Indonesia.“ The project also successfully built the capacity of young women researchers. This allowed them to not only fully participate but also play a leadership role in the research teams.” 

The researchers identified challenges that need to be overcome to improve the effectiveness of Explore and the resulting research projects. They found that disparities in regional and national contexts were a significant challenge. They included differences in social and political contexts, levels of forest landscape governance, awareness of crucial issues, experience and capacities, as well as the availability of time, funding and other resources. While all participating researchers said they benefited significantly, the disparities meant that some required additional support in proposal development, project management, social and gender inclusion, communication planning and other areas. 

Some of the researchers struggled to transition from ‘traditional research’ into research for development. Some lacked the confidence to participate, and many said they would benefit from further support. 

Enhanced collaboration across boundaries within the region was highlighted as a crucial impact of Explore and an opportunity for both cross-learning among the sector’s researchers and for collective influencing with the ASEAN regional platform.  

To learn more about Explore, including how to become a network member, visit


Explore is a research network and community of practice dedicated to expanding and applying knowledge on forest landscape governance in Southeast Asia. The network is funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Sida. It is hosted by RECOFTC, in partnership with the CIFOR-ICRAF, in collaboration with universities, research institutes, governments, civil society organizations, local communities, and the private sector in Southeast Asia.