Thanks to the support of Vayayiko Grants from INASP, at P&I we have recently started a new project to enhance current capacity of mid-level policymakers in Latin America to contribute to a vivid culture of using evidence in policymaking through an online course to be delivered in early 2015.
So far, we have done a lot of work with policy research institutions and researchers, but very little with policymakers. Although there has been in the past years a rise of offers to strengthen what many individuals call the demand side of evidence informed policymaking, the current approach is mostly based in promoting a general and conceptual framework on the topic along with providing them with the required technical skills to better assess what research to use, how to use it, etc. Our assumption is that more emphasis on the politics implied in that process so as to better gauge how research can interplay with other relevant factors in their decision making processes.
Indeed, our experience in working with policymakers reveals that they need further support in terms of leading change within their agencies to promote better use of research. In fact, it is not enough for them to be interested in incorporating more evidence in their decision making processes and to count with the needed technical advice and support for this. They also need to better assess how they can carry evidence informed policy discussions and decisions within their complex environment. We believe that there is not enough understanding of the political economy implied in this whole process that feeds into capacity building activities so as to approach the promoted change in a more systematic way.
We are also concerned about the low involvement of policymakers in developing useful knowledge for capacity building activities. We believe that to develop content that is of real use and value for policymakers in developing countries, we need to largely involve them in the co-production of new knowledge, especially by enabling them to set the research agenda in this matter and also by systematizing their rich and experience on the field. In Latin America there is already a critical mass of policymakers that adhere to the benefits of bringing more research into the policy table and that have sought to do so throughout their careers. However, their knowledge in this direction is mainly informally shared with their followers. There is yet a lost opportunity to capitalize on their experience so as to pave the way for upcoming cadres of policymakers.
Thus, the first step we have decided to take in this endeavor is creating a Strategy Content Group, composed by former or current senior policymakers from different countries in Latin America with a significant academic or research background. Their participation will provide several benefits: it will ensure that the course is attractive to mid-level policymakers to take part in, it will guarantee that the content is relevant, and most importantly it will provide an opportunity for the high-level policymakers’ knowledge to be systematized and passed on, rather than lost.
We are currently inviting several of them to join in, and gradually receiving interest and good feedback on the relevance and need of this course. We look forward to their feedback on our preliminary curricula and will share what we learn from them and their contributions in upcoming posts. And we welcome any good ideas on how to think about capacity development on this topic for policymakers, including literature, good and bad experiences, and food for thought!