Focusing events that shape the research process: A reflection by Henock B. Taddese

Henock B. Taddese recently completed his PhD at ScHARR. His PhD, entitled, ‘Cross-Sectoral Interactions in Real-Life: A Case Study of the Global Fund’s Country Coordinating Mechanism in Ethiopia’, focuses on understanding the complex real-life interactions between policy actors in developing country settings, as they participate in globally initiated public-private partnership mechanisms. Henock is also a graduate of the Europubhealth programme, a Masters in Public Health course delivered by a consortium of European and American Universities.  Henock’s chosen pathway in the programme brought him to ScHARR in the UK, the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and the Ecoles des Hautes Etudes en Santé Publique (EHESP) in France. His research interests lie in the area of global health governance, especially on understanding the linkages and interfaces between global health governance structures and processes on the one hand, and national health policy actors and processes, on the other.

This reflective article highlights how particular instances and experiences, called ‘focusing events’ in the article, shape critical choices that are made in the research process, ultimately influencing the focus of the study and the way it is conducted. The article thereby argues that the distance between the finish line and the start of a research endeavour is seldom a straight line but one where choices, preferences, and methods have to be adapted in view of evolving theoretical and practical considerations. By way of reflecting on the research process, the article also calls for increased attention to neglected concepts in health systems research, such as the power relationships between actors. Specifically, the article joins increasing calls for in-depth analysis of power that moves beyond traditional stakeholder analysis approaches; one that involves an inquiry of how stakeholders mobilise the differential power resources available to them in order to safeguard their stake in particular policies and programmes. The article emphasises the need to increasingly pose questions such as ‘whose ‘should’ is that?’ in global health research.