By Thesandree Padayachee
Making good with what we have, but is it enough?
Day three of Evidence 2018 delved deeper into the mechanisms, strategies and structures that work to support and facilitate evidence-informed decision-making (EIDM) in Africa. The poster sessions expanded delegates’ understanding of how “concepts” of EIDM are transformed into concrete actions and delegates listened to the relative successes of these actions through the lens of organisations hard at work at strategic and operational levels across various sectors. Presenters reflected critically on how their organisations responded to the persistent continental challenges involved in improving governance, accessing policy-makers, enhancing research capacity, and securing adequate funding.
The plenary session focussed on strengthening the supply side of EIDM and was chaired by Ms Beryl Leach, the Director and head of policy and advocacy at the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie). Panellists shared experiences of how capacity for EIDM and knowledge translation has been strengthened in their respective contexts. Dr Aloysius Ssennyonjo, a project manager at Makerere University’s School of Public Health in Uganda, described the SPEED partnership, which is being led by a southern university and provided details on how capacity for policy analysis was strengthened at the Makerere University School of Public Health (MakSPH). He summarised three important approaches that were adopted: multi-stakeholder engagements to understand problems and identify solutions; a policy implementation barometer to monitor implementation; and capacity-building for MakSPH faculty, students and partner institutions in policy analysis, advice and influence.
Dr Nasreen Jessani from Evidence to Action and Ms Violet Murunga of the African Institute for Devleopment Policy focussed on knowledge translation and the need to build capacity for appropriate and effective packaging of evidence for various stakeholders and audiences. I was excited to hear about the Centre for Evidence Based Health Care (CEBHC) at Stellenbosch University’s new course, “Evidence-informed decision-making: the art, science and complexity of knowledge translation”. The CEBHC offers a basic course on the principles of effective knowledge translation with an advanced course hot on its heels and currently in development.
Is it time to re-strategise?
Evidence 2018 has been an exceptional experience for me as a first-time delegate. I was impressed with the reach of Africa Evidence Network on the African continent and the ability of the organisers to facilitate a journey of discovery and simultaneously support active networking and collaboration. If these were the goals of Evidence 2018 then I would say that it has been achieved with remarkable precision. Over the past few days I have explored a range of issues that relate to EIDM on the African continent but I have also learnt about the many capacity-building activities on offer to those active in the field. While I am left feeling inspired and hopeful for the future, I also ponder the answers to the following questions.
- What are the unexplored/untested strategies that will facilitate changing of political attitudes about EIDM?
- Should evidence be made more accessible to civil society so that stronger momentum for a change in decision-making culture can potentially be created?
- And finally, will we dare to embrace the opportunity afforded by the good work of evidence generators to empower people of Africa to believe in their right to “gold standard” efforts in decision-making?
Evidence 2018 does a fine job of creating a community of like-minded people, all fervently navigating the challenges of institutionalising EIDM. I am thankful to the AEN for providing me with an opportunity to reflect on my experience at Evidence 2018. I have made many new friends and look forward to the next two years as we work our way towards Evidence 2020. May we have much good to report on when we next meet.
Thesandree Padayachee is the Programme Manager in Health Systems Research Unit at Health Systems Trust. She is a Queen Elizabeth Scholar through the McMaster Health Forum and the winner of the Evidence 2018 registration fee waiver for participating in this year’s annual member survey.