A peer learning network for government policymakers to advance evidence use in Africa: an emerging strategy (3ie)

Abstract of session
Objectives: To share and solicit feedback on the strategy and structure for a global evidence network. The network would aim to support governments in advancing evidence-informed policymaking, and collaborate with AEN and other existing initiatives. Description: Over the last year, Results for All has interviewed government policymakers and their partners in research, advocacy, and donor organizations. We also convened teams of government policymakers from 8 countries in a peer learning event in July 2018, to share strategies for using evidence to improve policy implementation. Through this consultative process and test activities, we have identified common challenges and opportunities to advance evidence use in government. We propose a peer learning network for policymakers in government as a promising platform for amplifying the value of using evidence, and strengthening institutional capacity to use evidence in decision making. In this session, we will present the findings of our year-long process, outline a strategy and structure for the proposed global evidence network, and solicit feedback from participants. Several leading champions in government will also discuss their progress to institutionalize evidence use, and how the proposed network could best support them and catalyze further progress. This session will discuss the following types of questions: Does the proposed network strategy reflect the needs and experiences of its intended members? Does it propose realistic ways to respond to challenges and opportunities to advance evidence-informed policymaking? What thematic issues areas should the network address? What should the governance structure of the network look like? How should the network collaborate with and complement existing groups and initiatives like AEN? How can we create a financially sustainable network? Participants will have the chance to brainstorm ideas in small groups, visually map changes to the approach shared by Results for All, and share feedback with the larger group. Government policymakers, evidence producers, donors, and anyone seeking to advance evidence use in government are encouraged to attend.

Facilitators
– Abeba Taddese, Executive Director, Results for All
– Ari Gandolfo, Projects and Partnerships Manager, Results for All
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Citizen Evidence and Evidence-informed Policy-Making: Whose Knowledge Counts?  

Abstract of the Session
Objectives: This session aims to explore the place of citizen knowledge as an essential element of evidence-informed policy-making by surfacing emerging practices, opportunities and challenges, and to identify potential areas of collaboration for building an agenda for action.

Description: The credibility and legitimacy of expert knowledge in public policy and decision-making processes is increasingly being questioned. As a vital counterbalance to rising tides of elitism and populism, citizen knowledge makes a crucial contribution to policy-making processes. Recognising that evidence is not exclusively based on research, citizen evidence draws on local, cultural and individual knowledge gained through direct experience. It integrates both individual and collective knowledge and is therefore an essential element of evidence-informed policy-making. Citizen evidence, typically expressed through the democratic process and accessed via stakeholder consultations or social audits, is often brokered through representatives such as civil society organisations, including policy research organisations, or cultural or regional groups. Discussions do happen between policy-makers and these groups but often in spontaneous or unstructured ways; there is therefore a need for knowledge-gathering to be systematised. Building on an initial discussion held during the African Evidence Informed Policy Forum in March 2018 in Nairobi, this session seeks to continue the conversation with a broader audience of evidence experts. Through a participatory process including break-out groups and a “fishbowl” methodology, the session will address the following questions:

  • What are the stories of success around citizen knowledge being used as evidence by policy actors?
  • What approaches/mechanisms and partnerships can help to systematically support the use of citizen knowledge in evidence-informed policy-making?
  • How can facilitators and enablers of citizen knowledge in evidence-informed policy-making help navigate power dynamics and work towards an equitable environment in which knowledge is received, interpreted and shared?

Facilitators
– Peter Taylor, International Development Research Centre
– Diakalia Sanogo, International Development Research Centre
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Measuring evidence use: the value of contribution tracing

Abstract of the session
3ie staff specialising in monitoring and measuring evidence use will give an overview of what 3ie is learning from applying contribution tracing to monitor and measure evidence uptake and use of 3ie-supported studies and reviews.  This combined pilot and learning project is improving the rigour, objectivity of and confidence in claims 3ie makes about instances of uptake and use. It is also validating the basic soundness of our evidence use and change indicators and our overall approach, as well as help refine it.

Description: How can we measure evidence use in an unbiased and rigorous way? What tools and methodologies can we apply to increase the confidence we have in claims on evidence use from evaluations and reviews? This interactive satellite session, will draw on 3ie’s experience with monitoring and measuring evidence uptake and use from a portfolio of completed impact evaluations and systematic reviews. Contribution tracing, a methodology that draws from Barbara Befani and Gavin Stedman-Bryce’s work, applies Bayesian updating to traditional process tracing to reduce subjectivity and increase confidence and consistency in making claims.

The facilitators will present 3ie’s experience with applying contribution tracing to a learning project to measure change from a portfolio of completed impact evaluations and systematic reviews. We will share examples and lessons from this project and what we are learning about the indicators we use to measure change. We will describe the improvements made to our overall approach for monitoring and measuring evidence use from studies.

Participants will work in groups on a few exercises where they will be asked to apply contribution tracing techniques to come up with testable evidence use claims and data collection strategies to measure use.

Facilitators
– Kanika Jha, Policy and evidence uptake officer, 3ie
– Kirthi Rao, Consultant- research associate, 3ie
– Radhika Menon, Senior policy and advocacy officer, 3ie
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Invisibility and evidence: Time’s up for evidence that doesn’t consider gendered drivers of inequality

Abstract of the Session
Objectives:  Participants will shine a light on this systemic problem to understand how it happens, why it is resistant to change and explore what they think should be done to ensure that evidence for decision-making addresses gendered inequality.  By helping to kick off the conference, this session aims to raise awareness and sensitivity that participants can be practice throughout the conference.

Description:  Participants will describe the challenges they are experiencing and what they are doing to promote more gender- and equity-responsive research and evidence use. They will offer recommendations for addressing invisible and missing evidence.  Audience members will describe their experiences and offer suggestions for positive changes.  Everyone will explore what we can be hearing and doing differently during the conference and when we go back home.

Facilitator
– Beryl Leach, director and head, policy and advocacy, 3ie
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Strengthening evidence use in Uganda: what’s working and what’s next

Abstract of the Session
Objectives:  Speakers will provide summaries from each of their perspectives:
(1) need for more evidence use; (2) accessibility and usefulness of evidence; (3) what they have been doing to use evidence themselves and promote its use; and (4) what are next steps for continuing to increase access to and use of quality evidence and some main challenges.

Description:  The chair will situate the session in the context of the importance of promoting evidence use at country level, and how that ties in with other efforts to improve it.  Presenters will describe a range of evidence needs and uses, as well as the variation in what works well or not. The talk show style encourages a conversation among the speakers and with the audience.

Facilitator
– Radhika Menon, 3ie
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Exploring synergies between evidence maps and rapid response services to support evidence-informed policy-making: towards collaboration and shared learning

Abstract of the Session
Objective: To explore synergies between evidence maps and rapid response services as two linked mechanisms to support evidence-informed policy-making

Description: This satellite session will commence a conversation on the usefulness and relevance of evidence maps and rapid response services as two mechanisms to support evidence-informed policy-making. The session will bring together experts on evidence mapping and rapid responses services from a range of settings (e.g. academia, government, NGOs) and sectors (e.g. environment, education, health care) to discuss synergies and opportunities for collaboration. The session will attempt to deepen conversations on two key questions:

  1. How to foster collaboration and co-ordination between producers and users of evidence maps and rapid response services?
  2. To what extent can evidence maps be used as a substitute for systematic reviews in rapid response services outside the health care sector?

Discussing these two key questions, the session hopes to bring together experts on evidence mapping and rapid responses services to identify practical next steps for the institutionalising of both mechanisms within policy-making processes. Therefore, the key audience for this session are government officials, particularly from South Africa, which has a number of established and piloted evidence mapping and rapid response services.

Chair: Laurenz Langer, Senior Researcher, Africa Centre for Evidence

Facilitators
– Harsha Dayal, Department for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation
– Rhona Mijumbi-Deve, African Centre for Systematic Reviews and Knowledge Translation
– Birte Snilstveit, International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie)
– Carina van Rooyen, Johannesburg Centre for Environmental Evidence
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Evidence Value Chain: Showcasing the dimensions of evidence from projects undertaken by the Research Use and Impact Assessment (RIA) Unit of the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)

Abstract of the Session
The objectives of this session are to:

  1. showcase projects undertaken by the Research Use and Impact Assessment (RIA) Unit at HSRC,
  2. establish collaboration with researchers and institutions that have similar interests to RIA’s.

Description: The Research Use and Impact Assessment (RIA) Unit of the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) operates at the research-policy nexus for the purpose of contributing towards effective policy formulation, implementation and evaluation.

The ‘human and social dynamics in development’ grand challenge identified in the Ten-Year Innovation Plan (DST, 2008) underscores the value of using social science and humanities’ research evidence in government policy-making. To get a better understanding of the use of evidence in policy-making, RIA investigated through projects such as:

  • Evaluation of the impact of the South African National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (SANHANES);
  • Policy Implementation Barometer: methodology and preparations in Uganda

Cognisant of the fact that effective policy implementation entails effective communication of policy decisions, RIA held a series of seminars on innovation for inclusive development (IID). While the seminars had varying focus areas, they all sought to enhance evidence supply and demand by sharing research findings with the stakeholders and establishing research gaps from the input made by the stakeholders. The stakeholders included policy makers, academics, researchers, professionals, key IID stakeholder organisations, funders, innovation at grassroots practitioners and industry practitioners.

One of RIA’s projects that investigated the dynamics of communication particularly with respect to policy implementation is titled ‘Communication sharing practices and needs of people living with HIV: A case of Nkangala in Mpumalanga and Ekurhuleni in Gauteng’. The project followed the establishment of an adherence communication campaign that was developed by Communication Impact (CCI), an NGO that uses evidence-based communication approach to improve the health and wellbeing of South Africans. The project was a baseline study and needs assessment that investigated adherence to HIV treatment, Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) testing platform, and User Experience (UX) Testing of HIV messaging.

One mechanism for ascertaining evidence supply and demand is through RIA’s knowledge brokering strategy. This strategy depicts ten knowledge brokering elements that are discussed by van Kammen, de Savingny and Sewankambo(2006, 609), which are fulfilled by different units and projects in RIA. These elements are about:

a) Organising and managing joint forums for policy makers and researchers
b) Building relationships of trust
c) Setting agendas and common goals
d) Signalling mutual opportunities
e) Clarifying information needs
f) Commissioning syntheses of research of high policy relevance
g) Packaging research syntheses and facilitating access to evidence
h) Strengthening capacity for knowledge translation
i) Communicating and sharing advice
j) Monitoring impact on the know-do gap

RIA’s mechanisms for the evidence value chain include:

  • HSRC Policy briefs – This is the shrinking of big and technical research reports into quick easy reads that are accessible/understandable to government policy-makers and others who are interested in formulating or influencing policy.
  • HSRC Review – This is a quarterly news magazine with articles of recent research outputs, success stories of collaborative projects, and projects involving capacity development at community level. The HSRC Review assists the organisation in adhering to its mandate which is to serve the public purpose, inform effective making and monitoring of policy, evaluation of policy implementation, and enhancement of public debate through effective dissemination research findings.
  • Seminars – HSRC seminars are a platform for sharing research as well as a mechanism to network with peers, sponsors, and other stakeholders. This series of seminars has grown to about seventy seminars per year and it also comprises book launches and public lectures with national and international audience.
  • The Policy Action Network (PAN) provides information on the ‘how to’ information on getting research into policy and getting policy into action. It also contributes to evidence-informed policy-making through the sourcing of relevant documents and resources from a wide range of sources. It contributes to the understanding of evidence supply and demand by drawing attention to current issues that may need to be highlighted.
  • Government Cluster Policy Workshops serve to bring the researchers and policy makers together because research evidence and knowledge sharing are critical prerequisites for evidence-based policy-making, policy coherence, alignment and coordination across government.

Other pieces of evidence that are facing extinction are the stories of the military veterans. The preservation of the story of the liberation struggle is rather precarious because by its nature, the liberation struggle was discreet, thus a lot of what happened remains unknown. This is aggravated by the fact that many of the military veterans are old and dying, thus many die without getting an opportunity to have their stories preserved. To this end, RIA is engaged in two projects:

  • Preservation of South Africa’s liberation heritage through the documentation of the history of military veterans;
  • Capacity Building of Military Veterans in Mpumalanga, North West, Limpopo, Free State and Northern Cape for the Production of their Autobiographies.

Facilitators
– Dr. Thembinkosi Twalo
– Dr. Edmore Marinda
– Dr. Stephen Rule
– Dr. Konosoang Sobane
– Ms. Valerie Fichardt
– Dr. Hester du Plessis

Contributors
– Dr. Temba Masilela
– Dr. Wilfred Lunga
– Dr. Cyril Adonis