Category Archives: General

Project inspires organizational change in Southern library consortia

Participants in Ghana celebrate the end of a productive and inspiring two days.

Sustainable access to cutting-edge research information is essential for any strong research and knowledge system. Strengthening southern library consortia has been an important component of INASP’s work for many years.

‘Leading in the Library: A learning lab for sustainable access to knowledge in developing countries’ is a collaborative partnership between INASP and Caplor Horizons working with library consortia to inspire organizational change. The project helps strengthen leadership, strategy and influencing skills by providing space for blended learning, where a combination of online, face-to-face and other training approaches are used.

This work will strengthen the organizational effectiveness of institutions (library consortia) that play a pivotal role in the knowledge economies of Ghana, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Uganda by enabling access to cutting edge research from around the world.

The ‘learning lab’ is an iterative and constantly evolving approach. It requires a great level of flexibility by the team to develop and adapt the project as it develops in unique ways in each country. However, being able to respond to these emerging themes and challenges is what provides an added dimension of depth and alignment with local needs.

Earlier this month, Ian Williams (Executive Director) and Lorna Pearcey (Director of Development) from Caplor Horizons together with Kemal Shaheen (Programme Manager, INASP) and members of the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Ghana (CARLIGH) reflected upon the current situation at CARLIGH and on the potential barriers and opportunities for future sustainability. The key insights and participant feedback make for an interesting read:

Project inspires organizational change in Southern library consortia

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Photo Blog: INASP celebrates International Day of Women and Girls in Science – 11 Feb

INASP Photo of the Month Feb 2017: Sophia Osawe working in the lab on Nigerian baby white blood cells to check immune responses to childhood immunization at University of Cape Town, South Africa. Sophia was a participant of the AuthorAID online course in research-writing, which took place in October-November 2016.

A core principle for INASP is to promote equity by actively addressing the needs of both men and women across all of our work. We recognize that many women in the countries where we work often face a greater number of barriers and biases than men in pursuing careers in research and academia. Limited prior education opportunities, the traditional expectations of family and society, unsupportive institutions and a lack of senior female role models are just a few of the challenges that girls and women frequently face. These gender barriers have significant implications for the creation and use of knowledge that enables inclusive, just and sustainable development. As more and better quality scientific research is produced in developing and transitional countries, we are committed to ensuring that women have an equal opportunity to participate in the production and communication of this research and knowledge.

On the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we are taking this opportunity to celebrate some of the women researchers and scientists with whom we work.

Here are photos of some of the femaleresearchers who participated in our AuthorAID online research-writing course.

 INASP celebrates International Day of Women and Girls in Science - 11 Feb

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AuthorAID partners meeting reveals shared optimism for the future of research capacity building

AuthorAID partners meeting, Tanzania, December 2016.

–  Blog post by Jennifer Chapin, Programme Manager, Research and Communication, AuthorAID

In December, for the first time, we held a two-day meeting of the six African AuthorAID partner institutions that are embedding AuthorAID research-writing training into their institutions.

Working more closely together will help research institutions in Tanzania and beyond to tackle the many challenges facing African higher education today – challenges such as addressing gender equity, getting research published in reputable and appropriate journals, and training early career researchers in ways that are appropriate for their situations and their institutions. This was one of the highlights of the AuthorAID partners meeting that was held in Dar Es Salaam in December 2016.

Our embedding partners represent a cross-section of academics and researchers, ranging from large multi-college universities, to smaller universities that focus on distance education, to research institutes that work closely with key policymakers in government. The six partner institutions in Africa include the Tanzanian Fisheries Research Institute, St John’s University, Tanzania Muhumbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, University of Dodoma, Open University Tanzania and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Ghana.

The partners represented a network of like-minded researchers

Each partner institution has developed a plan with INASP/AuthorAID to embed research-writing skills and communication across the institution. What this means in practice is that we work closely with them in undertaking training of trainers, developing and running writing workshops, implementing online courses and identifying any obstacles to success (such as issues with senior leadership or issues affecting women researchers).

Most of the meeting was devoted to group discussions, sharing ideas and networking. What was interesting was how much everyone relished the opportunity to talk to each other – we had assumed that the majority of the group would know each other through the grapevine (so to speak), either within the Tanzania university network, or through the AuthorAID online network. But this wasn’t necessarily the case. In many instances, partners mentioned how much they wanted a network for regular interaction and support, but how they struggled to find the time or the contacts to do so. This helped the AuthorAID team to see how important we are in providing a forum to do so.

A common understanding of what works

At the end of the first day, it was pretty clear that our partners had similar experiences in many ways, and had come to similar conclusions about the elements of institutionalizing training in research writing:

  • Blended training was by far considered the best format for training. The combination of an online course (with flexibility of location and timing) and a face-to-face workshop (providing practical time devoted to writing and presenting research) provided the best of both worlds.
  • With some struggles with online course completion by the participants, the partners agreed that the prestige factor of having an external facilitator was important in promoting engagement. This does not necessarily have to be someone from outside the country. Everyone agreed that a facilitator from another university within the country would build enough interest to encourage engagement.
  • Everyone agreed that the embedding process is more successful when there is buy-in from someone in a leadership role within the institution. Likewise, the team running the training should have the ear of senior leadership as needed so that they can change elements of the training when it’s not working properly.
  • The demand for training will always be there – with the influx of new students and staff every year comes more demand for this type of training.

 Shared challenges and some solutions…

  • There were some shared frustrations about running online courses, in particular that it cannot be guaranteed that course participants will be confident about using online technology. This can have adverse effects on the completion rates. Suggestions to combat this issue were to run a pre-course sensitization session and to better advertise the benefits of completing the course (such as publishing more and increased opportunities for funding).
  • Time constraints were a continuous issue, with many people expressing how difficult it is to find time to run workshops and courses when there are so many other competing priorities. Others shared that they have successfully lobbied their dean or chancellor to protect time for this as a priority, and to provide opportunities for promotion as a result of undertaking more training.
  • Every institution mentioned the degree to which poor internet connectivity slows progress. This started a great discussion on ways to solve this problem. For online courses in particular, we discussed spending more time ensuring course materials are fully downloadable and that Moodle courses are fully compatible with mobile phones.

At the end of the two days, it felt like everyone had learnt a lot from their peers, and we all had long lists of ideas and things to do upon returning home.

Each partner took away notes on improving sustainability, solutions to some of the common obstacles, and ideas on new areas of training, such as a desire to understand better on how to communicate science to journalists and policymakers. Everyone agreed they could do much more to keep the network they had built together ongoing. There were suggestions of holding annual networking meetings, developing an online group, and sharing online course facilitators between institutions.

Within the AuthorAID team, we will do our best to develop this and implement the list of priorities over the next year. Lastly, I want to express my heartfelt thanks to all of the partners for making this such a successful meeting!

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Evidence Reading: How do governments get great?

Botswana Parliament Building

House of the Parliament of Botswana in Gaborone. The paper discussed in this evidence reading cited Botswana as an example of a government that led an impressive transformation resulting in its ranking of Sub-Saharan Africa’s least corrupt nation in the global Corruption Perceptions Index 2016 by Transparency International. —————————————————————————————————– – Blog post by Clara Richards, Director of the VakaYiko Consortium and Senior Programme Manager at INASP’s Evidence-Informed Policy Making Team I started reading more about how governments can improve their work and drive positive change because I wanted to know how we at INASP can work with governments to improve their policies by putting research and evidence at the heart of their development agenda. I discovered an endless and exciting literature. However, it is mainly driven by the same authors who are part of the ‘Building State Capability Programme’ , and although they have great insight, it would be good … Continue reading

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Five free evidence networks to follow

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.

Membership: free

Twitter: @Africa_evidence

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

Twitter: @Research2Action

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.

Membership: free

Twitter: @a4uevidence

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.

Membership: 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

Twitter: @INGSciAdvice

Which evidence networks are you part of? Let us know in the comments.


Using evidence to mainstream gender in policy making

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.

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