Kirchuffs meets colleagues from Cameroon's eBASE Africa (December 2020)
The policy challenges on the continent of Africa are enormous, and as development practitioners aiming to enhance the quality of evidence used in policy processes, we are not relenting on this ethically-imposed commitment. The Africa Evidence Week (AfEW) generally provides that opportunity for practitioners (from all quarters within the ecosystem) to showcase their works. Side conversations with other practitioners acknowledge that this platform promotes cross-learning, whiles forging collaboration. I take this opportunity to share perspectives from the previous round of this celebration, and hint on expectations for this year.
Just 2 years ago, the Africa Evidence Network (AEN) started these festivities, through which my organisation (PACKS Africa) partnered with one of our key stakeholders in Ghana – the Inter-Departmental Research and Information Group (IDRIG) of the Parliament of Ghana. For us, it was a consolidation of our relationship, typified by the extent of support received from both Steering and Technical committee members of the group, as well as from the leadership of Parliament. It is noteworthy to highlight that the Hon. Second Deputy Speaker at the time, who delivered the keynote address, has become the main Speaker of the Parliament of Ghana – how fluid things can evolve.
Recapping Evidence Week 2019
Our activities for the celebration included 2 training workshops to demonstrate the competencies that we develop for EIDM (evidence-informed decision making), a stakeholder forum to diagnose the use of evidence within the sanitation sector in Accra, and presentations on initiatives by private, civil society and public organisations to expand opportunities for evidence use.
My highest point however was the launch of the celebration on the first day, during which the (now Speaker of Parliament) Hon. Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, on behalf of the then Speaker, launched a Service Charter for IDRIG which we co-developed with them. This document spells out the vision, mission and objectives of the Group, as well as the services and products produced, and the ethical standards of service. These are useful for any evaluation of work by constituent departments of IDRIG, aiding further evolution in their services.
The call – a need for further collaboration
During his keynote address, Hon. Bagbin touched on the need for improved collaboration. He intimated that Members of Parliament (MPs) are lovers of academic and scientific information, hence with the needed support, their work will certainly be improved. While this is very true, I take this opportunity to indicate some shortcomings in prevailing effort for collaboration within the ecosystem. Suggestions are equally offered to address them.
First and foremost, organisational culture differs greatly – and this is not limited to public agencies. While some organisations are quick to respond to situations that potentially inhibit use of evidence in decision making processes, others are overly relaxed, hence miss-out on the very present opportunities to address such situations. Continuous engagement and incentivising leadership in these bureaucracies to contribute to these initiatives will ultimately produce worthwhile results. The challenge is equally prevalent at individual levels, and can likewise be addressed with carefully designed interventions with guarantees for progressive use of these knowledge resources post-intervention.
Another major shortcoming for EIDM interventions is the over-concentration on interventions that are short-termed and tied to specific project. In contrast, we advocate ecosystem-oriented capacity interventions. Although short-termism provides guarantees of quick results that funding organisations mostly desire, they are very often not enduring. In most instances, when projects expire, conditions for evidence use revert to pre-intervention state. This equally needs to be addressed during intervention design, creating opportunities for lasting support for evidence use. A responsive intervention would combine system-oriented and sector/discipline specific partners, respectively to lead on sustainability and short-term outcomes. Interventions should aim to create self-sustaining governance frameworks to advance the cause of evidence use at organizational and systemic/network level.
Look out for our events in AfEW2021
At PACKS, we choose to provide support for the ecosystem from a macro perspective, making us open for collaboration with all other stakeholders. Whiles enhancing capacity for evidence use at all levels, we have also been furthering our competencies – increasingly in design options, but also in organisation development, partnership growth, and network effectiveness. These inform design of our sessions in #AfricaEvidenceWeek2021.
We will be 5 years in March 2021. As such, we dedicate our activities during #AfEW2021 to trail the celebration of our fifth anniversary. Our sessions this year touch on a couple of those, and my personal highlight this year is the reflective session on how our partnerships in Ghana have fared in the last 5 years. Catch the panel discussion at 15hr30 (GMT) on Monday, 13th September to join that conversation – and remember to pre-register here: https://bit.ly/3mVDRFh.
Same time on Wednesday, an interactive and multimedia presentation will be made by an Information Systems professor from the University of Ghana. This session aims to equip ecosystem actors with adequate knowledge on available information technologies to support our unique but complimentary roles in advancing the cause of evidence use.
On Friday 17th September, we will hold a session to explore knowledge that drive regional expansion. Other selected colleagues from across the continent will be joining us to explore what works (and what does not) in the quest for expanding support services beyond boundaries. These will touch on environmental factors conducive or inimical to the provision of support services, as well as sociocultural issues related to the production and use of research and other types of evidence.
These sessions promise to be very exciting – and it’s free to participate. The same registration link works for joining the different sessions, and we look forward to having you contribute to the conversations.
About the Author
Kirchuffs Atengble is Executive Director of PACKS Africa, a youth-led Pan-African think tank operating to improve uptake of research and other forms of evidence in policy processes and practice. They do this from the perspectives of information systems research and knowledge management. While providing strategic leadership to the organisation, he also leads on specific initiatives, aiming to nurture a really influential organisation for evidence-informed policies. He may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get in touch with him on Twitter @K_Atengble or @PACKS_Africa.
The views expressed in published blog posts, as well as any errors or omissions, are the sole responsibility of the author/s and do not represent the views of the Africa Evidence Network, its secretariat, advisory or reference groups, or its funders; nor does it imply endorsement by the afore-mentioned parties.