If evidence is the elephant, we need many voices to describe it

The first interactive session of the African Evidence Informed Policy Forum focused on how best to foster the use of evidence by policymakers. This session really was a ‘call to arms’ for all actors working in the evidence to policy ecosystem to come together to devise better and more effective policies. The diverse interventions during the lively session called for the evidence to policy process to be approached in a more holistic way. The panel, made up of funders, researchers, think tanks and evidence networks, called for more synergy between the different actors in the evidence to policy landscape including people from the research sector, the evaluation sector, the civil society sector and even the media sector need to come together and provide co-ordinated, multi-disciplinary evidence for better decisions.

In the lively chatshow format session and the Q+A that followed, people recognised that policymakers often receive different pieces of evidence from different entities which makes it hard for them to know which recommendations are the one to follow. In this context,  evidence producers needs to come together and present a united front rather than work separately to disseminate their own individual studies because, after all, their objectives are the same: improve the lives of communities.

The participants saw this moment as an incredible opportunity to change the environment and processes by which policies are being developed. They saw it as a moment to come together, to share learning, to make connections and to build partnerships in order to strengthen the ‘evidence ecosystem’ and to make more effective the wider body of policy influencers.

At this point, what is clear is that the policy process needs to be a participatory process. Producers of evidence, evaluators of evidence, consumers of evidence all need to come to the table at the same time. Co-identifying problems early on with policymakers was raised as an excellent entry point for producers of evidence.

This morning, we only started to scratch the surface of what it means to foster the use of evidence. This session set the tone for the remaining two days and provided participants with the ammunition to drive constructive discussions around a more participatory evidence to policy process in Africa.  The following two days’ discussions will surely find innovative ways on how to better collaborate to achieve that objective.

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