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)

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