Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Promoting the use of evidence in parliaments

Photo: Participants in the Parliament Learning Exchange (Left to right) – Mohammed Hardi Nyagsi, Parliament of Ghana; John Mugabi Bagonza, Parliament of Uganda, Christina Mafoko, Director of Research, Parliament of Zimbabwe; Abrahan Ibn Zackaria, Parliament of Ghana.

– Blog by Agnes A.S. Titriku, Program Manager, African Centre for Parliamentary Affairs (ACEPA), Ghana

Staff members from three parliaments (Ghana, Uganda and Zimbabwe) are participating in a Learning Exchange programme coordinated by the African Centre for Parliamentary Affairs (ACEPA), as part of the VakaYiko project. The aim is to strengthen the role of parliamentary information support units in evidence uptake by providing a space for peer exchange and support—both ‘learning together’ and ‘learning from each other’.

What do the parliaments’ information support systems look like?

“Mapping out linkages and collaboration among information departments has provided insight on how to strengthen weak links for instance through learning from other parliaments”. – Research Officer, Parliament of Ghana
At our first meeting in Kampala in November, participants from Ghana, Uganda and Zimbabwe learned about each of the parliaments’ information support systems.  Thirteen staff from information-producing departments – Research, Library, Information Communication Technology (ICT), Parliamentary Budget Office – joined the meeting.
In all three parliaments, the research departments are the main engines that drive the gathering and synthesis of evidence for decision makers. These vary in size and strength across the learning exchange partners, however: Parliament of Uganda has 34 research staff, Zimbabwe 8 and Ghana 10.
Departments such as Library and ICT play an important complementary role. The involvement of these and others such as Hansard, Committees, and Public Affairs in the use of evidence varies across the three parliaments.
Participants also gained insight into the role of specialized evidence units such as Parliamentary Budget Offices, which provide technical analysis on the annual national budget to guide MPs in the scrutiny of the Budget Bill. Uganda is the only Learning Exchange parliament which currently has a Budget Office; Zimbabwe and Ghana are moving towards establishing them, so were interested to hear the experience of Uganda’s Budget Office representative at the meeting.
The working relationship between these information support units is a crucial starting point when supporting evidence use in parliaments. We decided to focus the Learning Exchange on the strongest and most crucial working relationships (between ICT, Research and Library).

Opportunities for improving evidence use in parliaments

The Learning Exchange builds on the first three years of the VakaYiko programme by providing opportunities to collaboratively tackle some of the organizational-level issues that affect evidence use in parliaments. Participants selected several key areas to work on together.
“Not all 275 MPs use products of the research department. Some do not know much about what the department does”. – Research Officer, Parliament of Ghana
The visibility of research departments and the services they offer is important role for stimulating demand for evidence from MPs. Last year we brought research staff from the Zimbabwean and Ghanaian parliaments to observe the Ugandan Parliament’s Research Week, hosted by the Department of Research Services (DRS) under the VakaYiko programme. Parliament of Ghana is now planning to hold a similar event as part of the orientation programmes for its new parliament.
Establishing links with partners from academia, civil society and other institutions in local research systems can boost parliaments’ research capabilities across the many sectors they need to gather evidence on. Participants shared their experience of approaches they are taking to strengthen these links, including through roundtables and exhibits at events.  We also heard from a guest speaker from the African Centre for Technology Studies in Kenya, which held a successful series of roundtables with MPs to strengthen the evidence base for climate change legislation.
Another common issue faced by all the information support units is negotiating the intensely political environment within parliaments, as well as the power relationships between parliaments and the executive. Gathering, synthesising and communicating evidence within this challenging context was the topic of a recent videoconference between staff from the 3 parliaments. We used this opportunity to discuss some of the more strategic communications issues faced by parliamentary evidence providers, including how to strengthen feedback mechanisms to build a better understanding of MPs’ evidence needs.

Looking ahead: what next?

Participants are currently using a DGroup – Development through Dialogue – online platform to share experience and examples of their work, such as policy briefs and other evidence products.
Our final face-to-face meeting is taking place in Accra next month. This will include discussions of methods to strengthen mechanisms for gathering citizens evidence, in which Ghana will share their Community Scorecard approach, as well as expanding access to online sources of evidence, in which Uganda will share their experience as a member of their national library consortium.
The next six weeks promise to be an interesting learning experience for parliamentary staff and ACEPA is excited to be part of the process. It is our hope that at the end of this programme, staff from the three parliaments would have learnt from each other, enabling them to promote and increase the use of evidence to inform policy making in their respective parliaments. We’ll be writing up what we’ve learned about evidence in parliaments into a series of papers to be released later this year – stay tuned!
Agnes Titriku is the Program Manager for the African Centre for Parliamentary Affairs (ACEPA), where she plays an active role in the design and implementation of programs and interventions for Parliaments within and without the African continent.

She also coordinates the activities of the West African Association of Public Accounts Committees (WAAPAC), whose secretariat is currently hosted by ACEPA.

She has eight years’ experience of active engagement in the field of Parliamentary Democracy and Governance.

Prior to working at ACEPA, she has worked with the Canadian Parliamentary Centre, where she provided research and programmatic support to a number of parliamentary strengthening projects that were being implemented by the Centre.

Source: INASP Blog

Friday, April 22, 2016

Ghana's researchers recycle plastic to refine metals

Ghana is the second largest producer of gold in Africa and a 
major producer of manganese and the main aluminium ore, 
bauxite. Yet, despite mining accounting for more than a third 
of the country’s export earnings, none of these minerals are 
currently processed domestically, meaning the country is losing 
out on the huge profits to be gained by adding value to raw 
materials. A rich seam of other minerals, including iron ore, 
are as yet untapped.


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Follow-up shows positive impacts of training on EIPM participants

Capacity building is an integral part of development assistance. It seeks to build the understanding, skills and knowledge-base of individuals and institutions. But after capacity building, it is prudent to justify the intervention by measuring the impact it has on trainees.

 In 2015, the VakaYiko consortium entered an agreement with the Civil Service Training Centre (CSTC) in Ghana to develop a course and train civil servants on Evidence-Informed Policy Making (EIPM). From April 20 to 30, 2015, 23 officers from 14 Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the civil service and 2 parliamentary staff participated in the first batch of the course.

Participants were taken through all four (4) modules of the course ranging from the concepts of evidence and evidence-informed policymaking; challenges and opportunities involved with the use of evidence for policymaking; different sources of evidence and evidence products available; accessing these evidence literature; appraising the evidence literature; understanding methodological issues within the literature; and communicating evidence gathered to appropriate audience(s) using appropriate communication tools and media.

Based on Action Plans submitted a follow-up impact assessment was carried out from August 17 to October 8, 2015 for 3 main objectives;  to assess the status of Action Plan implementation by participants, to learn from conditions existing at their work places for course improvement, and to assist with communicating best practices. Data was collected from twenty participants served as respondents.

Five thematic areas were assessed:

Action Plan
Participants were assessed on the levels at which they had implemented their actions plans. Twenty percent of the participants completed the implementation of their action plans, 40% were almost complete and the remaining 40% were half way through the implementation of their plans.

On challenges encountered in the implementation of the action plans, 1 respondent did not encountered any challenge, 9 reported overloaded work schedules, 3 had a problem of internet connectivity, 3 were isolated by their members and 2 did not get adequate support from their colleagues.

Participants were also assessed on factors that created enabling environment for the implementation of their action plans. Sixteen (57.1%) respondents received cooperation from team members involved in the action plan implementation. This was confirmed by their supervisors. Other enabling factors for the performance include; the fact that activities being implemented were satisfying organisational needs; that minimal organisational resources were required; that strategic buy-ins were secured from stakeholders within and outside the organisations; and that participants showed positive attitude towards the implementation of action plans.

Internal monitoring and evaluation
Participants were required to monitor and evaluate their action plans, and they used varied means to monitor and evaluate their actions — crosschecking action plans; looking out for output/indicators; personal visits; as part of to do lists; and by collaborating with other colleagues.

Using these M&E activities as guiding tools, 1 participant developed an information request form to be used by the front desk unit of the organisation for information to regularise and clarify the nature of information request. Twelve others sensitised members of their organisations; whiles another 4 made efforts to organise internally created documents.

Another 3 participants satisfied their obligations by working to gather evidence in the form of data/information/research publications for their organisations, activities that have been stimulated by the training. Other outstanding activities perform by the participants include; uploading documents onto the website, gathering feedback, sensitisation and uploading database with current data.

Effects of training
Participants experience better appreciation of internal documents for EIPM; better understanding of research methodologies, increased knowledge of information/evidence sources, enhanced skill-set to access evidence, improved contribution to policy documents, critical thinking capacity when assessing evidence products and an increased awareness and appreciation of EIPM concepts.

General feedback and recommendation

In general the EIPM course has enhanced the skills of participants to access evidence, improved their contributions to policy documents and increased ability to communicate evidence. All the participants recommended EIPM training to their colleagues. The training is believed to be having significant effects on participants and their organisations. Constant introduction of innovations by participants to their work places will result is marked improvement in policy making processes with Ghana’s Civil Service.

It is recommended that support be offered to successful graduates of these trainings once they return to their organizations, and training partners must endeavour to consolidate the implementation of these action plan through follow-ups such as was conducted by VakaYiko partners.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Evidence-Informed Policy Making in Ghana—GINKS Shows the way

Evidence-Informed Policy Making in Ghana — GINKS Shows the way
There is a growing demand for evidence informed policy making to improve relevance, efficiency and effectiveness of policy reforms. It is argued that the absence of evidence leads to opinion based policies which rely deeply on either the selective use of evidence or experimental opinions of individuals or groups. 

Evidence-informed policy making is grounded on the fact that policy decisions should be informed by available evidence and balanced analysis of the policy issue in question. This is based on the fact that a policy decision made on evidence is likely to produce a better outcome than one that is opinion-based. 

The VakaYiko Consortium  
To increase the use of evidence in policy making in developing countries, the VakaYiko consortium, a network of NGOs working in Ghana, Zimbabwe and South Africa; the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and International Network for the Availability of Scientific Information (INASP) was formed based on the premise that for research evidence to be routinely and effectively used in policy-making, at least three factors need to be in place: individuals with the skills to access, evaluate and use research evidence; processes for handling research evidence in policy-making departments; and a facilitating environment that identifies and responds to research uptake needs.

Ghanaian Researchers’ Perspectives

From the perspectives of researchers, there is no synergy between them (researchers) and policy makers. There is also the need to demystify research and policy making. Even though there are a number of platforms from which evidence (in the form of data, research articles, expert opinion and citizen knowledge) can be accessed for policy making in Ghana, the question remains whether potential users are aware of these, and have the necessary skills to access them, and also check for quality across the various platforms.

GINKS Training Programmes

GINKS, the consortium representative in Ghana, started building the capacity of civil servants and parliamentary staff on evidence-informed policy making. So far, GINKS has trained over 60 people from Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) and information support staff of the Parliament of Ghana. In April, 2015, GINKS in collaboration with the Civil Service Training Centre (CSTC), trained staff from MDAs on evidence-informed policy making. The Head of Civil Service in Ghana, Nana Dwemena Agyekum, lauded the EIPM approach as a unique one that would move people away from the usual desk-top policy formulation to a more rigorous scientific process.  Clara Richards, Director of the consortium, said civil servants needed skills to be able to search for relevant information and effectively communicate it to those who make policy.

This programme was followed in October by another training programme for middle level staff working in MDAs. In her interaction with participants, the Principal of the CSTC, Mrs Dora Dei-Tumi indicated that the quality of information submitted to cabinet effects the quality of policies the government of the day will formulate. She reiterated the core function of the civil service as the provision of policy options for government, adding that the CSTC was taking advantage of GINKS’ support to build the capacity of civil servants to be able to provide information that speaks to the needs of government.

GINKS also recognises that the role information support staff of parliament play in policy. The organisation therefore opened this year with a ten day capacity building training for this level of staff. A Deputy Clerk of Parliament, Alhaji Ibrahim Gombilla, was excited at the support extended by GINKS to the parliamentary staff. He said parliament places a lot of emphasis on capacity building but did not have all the resources to do it alone; hence, GINKS' support was timely.

GINKS has also built the capacity of staff of District Assemblies through policy dialogue in Ho and Koforidua in the Volta and Eastern regions of Ghana respectively. 

Training people on evidence-informed policy making also involve evaluating the trainees at their work places to get first-hand information on how the training impacts on their performance. GINKS therefore make follow to ups to evaluate action plans drawn by trainees during these trainings and the results have been encouraging.

By Sule Jotie (GINKS)

Knowledge café on evidence-informed policy-making in Zimbabwe

There are examples of successful policies in Zimbabwe, informed 
by evidence. But, since independence, policymaking has largely 
been reactionary and ideologically driven. This has resulted in 
many policy inconsistencies and failures. The need to build 
institutional capacity to make informed policy decisions in 
Zimbabwe is especially urgent now, as Zimbabwe faces 
major economic challenges.

ZeipNet - Evidence Informed Policymaking Interviews

Evidence informed policymaking (EIPM) is an approach that 
ensures decision-making is well informed by the best available 
evidence. A number of studies show that most policy failures 
and inconsistencies are largely caused by, either a lack of evidence, 
or a lack of rigor in evidence used to create or review policies. 
EIPM, therefore, requires systematic and transparent access to, 
and appraisal of, evidence as part of the policymaking process.

Press Conference: Discussion Forum to be Hosted by ZeipNet in partnership with AEN

Zimbabwe Evidence Informed Policy Network in partnership 
with the African Evidence Network are to host a forum on the 
national evidence infrastructure in Zimbabwe: Strengthening 
the institutional landscape to support Evidence-Informed 
Policy-Making. Crowne Plaza Monomotapa Hotel, Harare