Ron Munatsi, Programme Manager at the Zimbabwe Evidence Informed Policy Network (ZeipNET), reflects on some of INASP’s work to support e-resource access in the country since 2002 and how the relationships built up over the years enabled ZeipNET to secure high-level buy-in and engage with government ministries as part of the VakaYiko Consortium.
The Zimbabwe Evidence Informed Policy Network (ZeipNET) is a relatively new organization; founded in 2002, we work to improve Zimbabwe’s use of evidence in policy making. Through experience and strong networks, built up through national and international collaboration, we’re making progress towards our goal. But it isn’t always easy.
Policymakers in the South can be suspicious of development organizations and their agendas. And this is further complicated by the fact that evidence-informed policy making is a relatively new concept in Zimbabwe.
What’s more, evidence-informed policy making is in itself a political concept. Inevitably, it involves questioning government policy decisions.
Navigating the bureaucratic and highly polarized political landscape in Zimbabwe has been an important part of our work: demonstrating that we are independent, with no political inclinations. We’ve also strived to ensure inclusivity and diversity in our work.
Being a ‘home-grown’ organization was a critical part of our success in doing this. Both I, and ZeipNET’s co-founder, used to work for government and quasi-government organizations, so we had a good understanding of how things work. We were able to draw on our inside knowledge of the political context.
Getting buy-in from senior government officials was also essential to our work. And critical to our ability to do this, was the access provided by INASP. I first engaged with INASP when working for the Zimbabwean government. INASP’s Programme for Enhancement of Research Information (PERI) [INASP’s flagship programme from 2002 to 2013, since superseded by the current Strengthening Research and Knowledge Systems (SRKS) programme] helped implement capacity building training for government research libraries and departments, including the Parliament of Zimbabwe. The PERI programme was working to strengthen capacity for sustainable access to scientific journals and other resources, as well as how to use the information.
ZeipNET was born out of this increased demand for such trainings among government departments. We now work with INASP and other partners in Ghana and the UK as part of the BCURE-funded VakaYiko Consortium.
Existing relationships built up through INASP’s work, meant that it was not difficult to convince ZeipNET’s partner ministries and the Parliament that the BCURE project was an extension of previous work, and would meet the training needs.
These relationships enabled ZeipNET to engage not only with government institutions, but those supplying or producing the evidence used in decision making. This is important to our aim to build a strong institutional policy landscape that supports evidence use in decision making, where stakeholders work collaboratively to identify research needs and priorities.