The power of hard evidence in affecting systems change

June 2019

Blog

In June, SNV and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) came together for our annual meeting to reflect and exchange on the Voice for Change Partnership (V4CP). This three-part blog series will explore some of the key lessons we learned from our exchanges, based on the three pillars of the V4CP project: evidence generation and dissemination; capacity development; and evidence-based advocacy. These are the strategies that we believe will lead to systems change and meaningful results.

From Honduras to Rwanda and Ghana to Indonesia, from water and sanitation to food and nutrition security, the work of the Voice for Change Partnership (V4CP) spans far and wide. Despite different contexts, our work across countries and sectors has much in common: namely, our approaches to capacity development, evidence generation, and advocacy to support local CSOs and their advocacy efforts.

In June, SNV and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) came together for our annual meeting to reflect and exchange experiences on these topics. This is the fourth year of the V4CP project, and we have learned a lot from our experiences and from each other during this time.

This three-part blog series will explore some of the key lessons we learned from our exchanges, based on the three pillars of the V4CP project: evidence generation and dissemination; capacity development; and evidence-based advocacy. These are the strategies that we believe will lead to systems change and meaningful results.

Lesson 1: the power of hard evidence and data in affecting change

In all of the countries that the V4CP project works in, namely Burkina Faso, Ghana, Honduras, Indonesia, Kenya and Rwanda, evidence has been a key factor in advocacy. During our annual V4CP gathering, we dove deeper to ask ourselves, How do we generate evidence? How do we disseminate and translate evidence to different audiences? From this we had several take-aways from the power of hard evidence and data in affecting change.

The role of IFPRI, as a renowned international research institute, is key. IFPRI works closely with SNV country offices and civil society organisations (CSOs) to generate top-quality evidence that underpins and supports CSOs’ advocacy efforts in the areas of food and nutrition security (FNS) and resilience.

This effective cooperation and translation of top-quality data has had several positive outcomes across multiple countries already:

In Ghana, IFPRI research on post-harvest losses (PHL), including a the scale and overview, review of the evidence, and PHL technologies, resulted in the government’s incorporation of PHL issues in its Medium Term Development Plans, and in the formation of the Upper West Regional Post Management Platform.

In Burkina Faso, hard evidence on the potential of family farms to curb malnutrition resulted in the increase and securing of the budget line for improved seeds, fertilizers, extension services and equipment, despite general budgetary issues for all sectors due to security challenges in the country. Since January 2019, parliamentarians used the evidences generated in at least four  TV debates to show how it’s possible to achieve sustainable FNS in Burkina Faso.

In Kenya, CSOs, SNV and IFPRI set out to analyse whether the milk industry complies with regulations. This powerful data led to considerable advocacy results. For example, raw milk samples were collected from a mixture of dairy shops, milk bars and markets, and 80% of them were found to be neither refrigerated nor cooled, hence not following regulations. In order to increase producers’ and vendors’ awareness of regulations, these and other findings were shared with dairy stakeholders and high-level seminars were held to disseminate the information, which also resulted in significant media engagement and increased public awareness. This evidence is now informing dairy sector strategic plans in several counties, including Nakuru, Nyandarua and Murang’a.

Process of evidence generation and collaboration

Through the learning event we also learned that the process of evidence generation is as important as our ability to use this evidence to influence change. A partnership among a research institute, a development organization, and civil society organizations is a learning experience, and since 2016, this partnership has evolved and contributed to positive change and impact on the ground. With strengthened capacities, CSOs have been increasingly able to better identify their information needs for improved advocacy efforts to affect change.

In several countries, IFPRI and the CSOs generate evidence in a collaborative process for maximum impact. Together, we have learned that this evidence must be user-friendly, understandable, and geared toward solving a collectively identified issue. This evidence has been packaged and used to engage policy makers to affect change.

For example, in Rwanda, the process of developing tools for CSOs to use in conducting their research and analysis has empowered CSOs with knowledge and skills. Rwanda Development Organisation (RDO) is now equipped to conduct budget tracking analyses and will be transferring this knowledge to others in an upcoming training in Kenya.

Having seen the importance of localized research in impacting policy makers, CSOs in Indonesia also made it their priority to develop the skills to be able to carry out research themselves. IFPRI transferred survey research knowledge to CSOs such as KONSEPSI. The result is that KONSEPSI has now conducted its own surveys on stunting, which are used by district officials in their work. Watch this video to learn more.

CSOs and research

Through this partnership, CSOs have gained a better understanding of the need for evidence in advocacy and are acquiring critical skills for accessing, generating, and interpreting evidence and data for improved advocacy. For example, in Honduras, CSOs filled key information gaps through a participatory evidence-gathering and analysis process on energy, specifically clean cookstoves.

Conclusion and next steps

From these exchanges, we have learned that once you gain the tools to analyse evidence and uncover realities, the possibilities for affecting change are endless.

This is the first in a three-part V4CP blog mini-series. Stay tuned for blogs on capacity development and evidence-based advocacy soon.

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