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Monthly Archives: January 2017
Networking at VakaYiko Symposium
– Blog post by Agnes Becker, EIPM communications support, INASP
Learning from international development colleagues who are also passionate about evidence use in policymaking inspires us and helps us feel connected. Networks are a great way of finding out who is doing what, when and where. Here are a few of our favourite free networks (in no particular order):
Africa Evidence Network
The Africa Evidence Network is a community of people who work in Africa and have an interest in evidence, its production and use in decision-making. The Network includes researchers, practitioners and policy-makers from universities, civil society and governments. The aim of the Network is to link people and activities across various initiatives, organizations and fields working to produce and use better evidence in Africa. The network does this through online communications and conferences.
Research to Action
Research to Action is a website catering for the strategic and practical needs of people trying to improve the uptake of development research. This is more of a resource bank than a network but you can request to post resources and blogs, comment on posts and get regular updates via Twitter.
Browse and submit resources for free
Alliance for Useful Evidence
The Alliance is a UK-wide network that promotes the use of high quality evidence to inform decisions on strategy, policy and practice in the UK and internationally. The Alliance does this through advocacy, publishing research, sharing ideas and advice, and holding events and training. Their website hosts a blog and free publications database.
Evidence Based Policy in Development Network
The evidence-based policy in development network is a community of development professionals interested in the intersection between evidence, policy and practice. The network aims to establish a worldwide community of practice for think tanks, policy research institutes and similar organisations working in international development, to promote more evidence-based, pro-poor development policies. Join discussions and access resources by becoming a member for free.
International Network for Government Science Advice
International Network for Government Science Advice provides a forum for policy makers, practitioners, academies, and academics to share experience, build capacity and develop theoretical and practical approaches to the use of scientific evidence in informing policy at all levels of government. The network does this by sharing information online, holding workshops and working groups, and producing articles and discussion papers.
Membership is free
Which evidence networks are you part of? Let us know in the comments.
Gender Centre for Research and Training running a workshop in training to policymakers on mainstreaming gender in development policies and practices.
– Blog post by Amira Osman, Co-founder of the Gender Centre for Research and Training, Sudan
Gendered evidence is important for policy making because it gives policy makers and development planners a clear picture on the gender needs of the population they are targeting. In recent years, this need has received greater attention. However, there are still numerous barriers and challenges to mainstreaming gender in programmes and policies.
To discuss this, a breakout session was held at the VakaYiko symposium in Accra on 5 October 2016. Policy makers, researchers and civil society organisations from countries in Africa, Latin America and Europe joined the discussion. Also present, was a Regional Director from the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection in Ghana, who shared a practical perspective on challenges and opportunities to mainstreaming gender evidence within government policy. Here are five key things to come out of the discussion:
1. Gender is a socially constructed issue
What we understand by ‘gender’ varies from culture to culture and changes over time. Furthermore, the concept of gender is sometimes seen as a western concept. Therefore the concept needs to be deconstructed and understood in relation to ethnicity, culture, geography, age, disability, religion and social status, making it more relevant to the experiences of people in the local context This is a key to developing a policy that is informed by relevant gender data and gender analysis.
2. Gender is often not seen as a priority
Policy makers at the top of hierarchical decision-making structures – often men – don’t see collecting and using gendered evidence as a priority. As such, adding a gender perspective to their activities challenges the status quo, including their power.
3. Policy making bodies often lack necessary resources, time and skills
Scarce or stretched resources is a major barrier. Even within departments with a specific gender remit – such as Ghana’s Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection – inadequate financial resources to collect gender disaggregated data was raised as a major challenge. The lack of communication between data producers (researchers) and users (policy makers) can further hinder this.
4. Quantitative and qualitative data collection methods are needed
There is often a reliance on quantitative data methods, which tend to favour statistics without paying attention to women’s and men’s different roles in society. For example, quantitative data may tell us about the number of women in a parliament but adding qualitative data will inform us about women’s and men’s experiences/perspectives within such an important decision making body.
Qualitative methods such as focus groups and in-depth interviews allow participants, in particular women, to engage in fruitful discussions and to raise issues of concern such as their experiences with domestic violence, which women may not feel comfortable mentioning in a survey conducted by a male interviewer. In this sense, the sex of the interviewers is relevant particularly in contexts where sex segregation is common, i.e. female interviewers are needed for female interviewees and male interviewers are needed for male interviewees.
5. Capacity building on gender disaggregated data and data analysis is a practical step
Capacity building for different stakeholders, such as community leaders, grassroots organisations, civil servants, researchers and policy makers, is needed. Capacity building for stakeholders on gender disaggregated data and gender analysis is a practical step to equip them with relevant skills to mainstream gender in policies and programmes.
To tackle the above key points/challenges, the Gender Centre for Research and Training in Sudan (GCRT), using the VakaYiko grant managed to provide capacity building sessions to mid and high level policy makers from two ministries in Sudan on gender and gender analysis to inform policy. The sessions acted as platforms for dialogue which helped policy makers to raise questions, analyse information and develop plans and policies that address the needs of women, men, boys and girls and to facilitate gender mainstreaming in all programmes.
To tackle the above challenges participants suggested the following:
• Reaching women, girls, boys and men in remote areas and incorporating their perspectives and needs in any gender and capacity building projects targeting them.
• Promote dialogues between policy makers and researchers to enable better collection of sex-disaggregated and qualitative data.
• Develop and sustain a gender perspective and gender analysis in all decision making processes.
• Allocate resources for all of the above suggested activities.
Read an interview with Thywill Eyra Kpe, Regional Director for the Department of Gender (Central Region) in Ghana, on how gender evidence is used to inform regional policy in Ghana.
Evidence Spotlight: Towards better use of evidence in Parliaments – The experience of the Parliament of Uganda?
John Mugabi Bagonza, Director of the Department of Research Services at Parliament of Uganda, shares the Department’s model with VakaYiko colleagues from Ghana and Zimbabwe at the 2016 VakaYiko Symposium in Accra
– Guest Post by Sunday Olishe Etrima, Research Officer-Parliament of Uganda
INASP’s Evidence-Informed Policy Making team is working with the Parliament of Uganda to improve the use of evidence in decision-making.
Uganda’s constitution places a huge mandate on the Parliament of Uganda to make decisions that serve the interests of the nation and its people. But this is only possible if parliamentary decisions are supported with valid, relevant and well-researched evidence. In other words, decisions must be informed by technical advice built on a strong foundation of evidence and analysis.
In the Parliament of Uganda, it is the duty of the Department of Research Services (DRS) to ensure that parliamentary decisions are backed with evidence. The DRS does this in a number of ways:
Building capacity to providing to Members and Committees of Parliament
The DRS has recently repositioned itself with the aim of providing and promoting more evidence and quality analysis to Members, Committees and Staff of Parliament. As part of the repositioning, the DRS has evolved from a small unit of only twelve staff within the Department of Library, Research and ICT, to being a fully-fledged Department with 39 staff members. This has enhanced the capacity of the DRS to provide evidence to facilitate parliamentary work and addressed some glaring evidence supply deficiencies.
Generating its own multidisciplinary evidence
The DRS is an evidence generation unit in its own right, housing economists, statisticians, accountants, lawyers, social workers, engineers, political scientists, agriculturalists, environmentalists and mineral experts. The DRS’ key research products include fact sheets, regular research reports, bill analysis reports, committee issue briefs, policy analysis reports, committee field visits, and meeting notes. In addition, new products such as constituency profiles, one page summaries and talking points for Members of Parliament (MPs) have been developed and are highly in demand by MPs.
Although proactive research on topical issues is very much encouraged, the DRS generally produces evidence in response to demand from different individuals or organs of parliament. Clients include individual MPs, Committees and Offices of the Parliament. Research requests are placed through the Director of Research Services and the work is assigned to the relevant researcher(s). It should be noted that research outputs are on the increase: in the first quarter of the Financial Year 2016/17, the DRS produced 129 more reports than planned, exceeding its target by 64%. This clearly demonstrates increased demand for research products.
Stimulating demand for evidence
Where there is less demand for evidence, the DRS also focuses on stimulating it, chiefly among Members and Committees of Parliament. This has been done through various strategies, perhaps the most prominent and recent of which was a ‘Research Week’ in August 2016 held to raise awareness of DRS research services among new members of Parliament in the tenth Parliament. Another approach is making presentations to MPs and Committees on the importance of using evidence in their legislative, oversight and representative roles.
Ensuring the quality of in-house research
It is DRS’s strategy to continuously improve the quality of the evidence it generates. For instance, over the past two years, researchers have received training in bill analysis, policy analysis, report writing, committee briefing, science communications, data visualization, and other areas as part of a deliberate effort to build staff capacity in the department. This training was made possible with financial resources from the Parliamentary Commission and development partners such as INASP. As a result, the DRS’ capacity to generate more and better-quality evidence has improved significantly. The knock-on effect is that the department has earned the trust of the Parliamentary Commission, and now executes assignments in-house that were previously done by externally hired consultants. For instance, the DRS currently undertakes training needs assessment for the Institute of Parliament Studies.
Building strong systems to support evidence generation and use
Lastly, the quest of the DRS to ensure better use of evidence in Parliamentary work is rooted in building strong systems to support increased supply and demand for evidence in the legislative, representative and oversight functions of the Parliament of Uganda. To this end, the DRS has developed research guidelines and manuals to support its mandate. It is also developing a website and workflow system to share its products internally and externally, and finalizing collaborative arrangements with key research institutions and think tanks to create a pathway to allow the enormous amount of evidence produced by such institutions to be used in the policy arena.
That’s not to say there aren’t still some challenges: increasing number of MPs and Committees of Parliament that increases demand for work, limited funds to finance field studies among others. However despite these issues, the DRS is making good progress, and we hope to see increasing engagement with quality, relevant evidence by Parliament going forward.