The project is an extension on work done by the VakaYiko Consortium (2013-2017). The DFID funded Building Capacities to Use Research Evidence (BCURE) project which was implemented by the Vaka Yiko consortium supported public institutions in low and middle-income countries to develop skills, knowledge and systems to improve the use of evidence in decision making. As part of the BCURE, VakaYiko partners worked with the Parliament of Ghana, Uganda and Zimbabwe to strengthen their capacity for evidence use. The Building Capacities of Parliaments for Evidence Informed Policy Making project therefore built VakaYiko’s prior activities with the Parliaments of Ghana, Uganda and Zimbabwe by facilitating knowledge sharing between their research departments. Activities under the extension phase aimed at supporting the capacity of research and allied information-producing departments in the three parliaments to play a more influential role in providing information support to parliamentarians and engendering evidence uptake. It also aimed at strengthening internal linkages through strengthening collaborative relationships among information units within the respective parliaments. Additionally, the project through its initiatives expected to deepen collaboration between the beneficiary parliaments. The project ran from 2016-2017.
An initial knowledge exchange meeting held in Kampala, Uganda for researchers and staff of other information units from the three parliaments. This led to the development of a learning strategy to guide the Pear Exchange initiative.
Based on the strategy from the Kampala meeting, a peer exchange scheme was designed to take place in two ways – virtual and physical. Consequently, an online learning platform was set up using DGroups. The platform was designed to allow staff share information, evidence products and guides with each other based on their needs. Another component of the virtual component of the Peer Exchange was the use of video conferences. One video conference was successfully organized for staff from the three parliaments. The video conference was used to discuss strategic communication for evidence uptake. One session of the conference took an in-depth look at Audience Feedback Needs, Tools and Processes. The second part of the conference interrogated the Political Challenges to evidence communication. It looked at among others, the dynamics of internal political space against external political space, and the impact of internal and external politics on evidence.
A second learning exchange meeting was held in Accra, Ghana that brought together research and allied departments’ staff from the three Parliaments. Participants shared knowledge and had discussions on strengthening mechanisms for gathering citizens’ data (with participants from Ghana sharing the Community Score Card methodology), expanding access to online sources of evidence through membership of consortia (with experiences from Uganda and CARLIGH), functions of Parliamentary Budget Offices and evidence communication.
The project also produced an Analytical Paper on the role of Parliaments in using evidence for scrutiny and debates. The paper discussed EIPM within the parliamentary context with a closer look at the information support and the role of information support units. It looked at what is evidence in the parliamentary context, its sources and types, and the evolution towards EIPM. It also explored theoretical concepts, typology of parliaments as a function of demand and suply of evidence. The last aspect of the paper presented a detailed case study of the three VakaYiko parliaments and assessed them within the context and framework of EIPM.
The knowledge exchange approach adopted was successful in the transfer of knowledge and best practices across contexts. It opened the Parliaments up to a lot of ideas and innovations, leading to institutional actions that seek to promote evidence use. The Parliament of Ghana for instance, through the Inter-Departmental Research and Information Group (IDRIG) started the Data Fair initiative based on Uganda’s Research Week model.
The analytical paper serves as one of the foremost reference materials on evidence use in African Parliaments. Not only does it share great insights into evidence and information production and use in parliaments but it has also provided basis for further research.
The project has also led to and informed the design of other projects such as the Data for Accountability Project (we can hyperlink).