By Dr Yvonne Erasmus
I am very excited to be involved in EVIDENCE 2018, happening from 25 – 28 September this year. This year’s event will see the organising committee drawing on successes from EVIDENCE 2016 and listening to the views of the Africa Evidence Network (AEN) members on how we can make this conference bigger and better still. One way we will be making EVIDENCE 2018 even better is through the inclusion of different strands. Here I introduce these strands, as well as those who will be leading them, to you.
What are the strands and how were the EVIDENCE 2018 strands selected?
One of the findings from the evaluation of EVIDENCE 2016 was that AEN members wanted the EVIDENCE events to be more thematically representative of the sectors they worked in, while remaining broadly inclusive within the remit of evidence-informed decision-making (EIDM). Strands at EVIDENCE 2018 will aim to bring in the thematic content of AEN members’ sectors.
Developing the strands was a consultative process which began with a broad search for issues that currently affect the African continent from sources such as the World Bank and the African Union – among other organisations. A total of 16 development issues were found. These issues were circulated to the AEN membership, and members were invited to vote for what they felt were the most pertinent issues for Africa that should be the strands of EVIDENCE 2018.
The four issues that members voiced as most important were Good Governance, Communicable Diseases, Climate Resilience, and Quality Education. Whilst these four themes will feature prominently at the conference we remain interested in illustrative examples of the use of evidence in decision-making outside of these sectors, and also encourage these submissions to the conference.
Who is the Scientific Programme Committee?
The Scientific Programme Committee (SPC) of EVIDENCE 2018 is responsible for the call for and selection of abstracts for EVIDENCE 2018. The committee consists on the head of the SPC and four strand leaders – one for each strand.
As head of the SPC, my expertise lie in evidence-informed decision-making in international development where I have worked with the Africa Centre for Evidence in South Africa. I have worked most recently on the University of Johannesburg’s programme aimed at Building Capacity to Use Research Evidence (UJ-BCURE) as the deputy director, and as a co-lead on two internationally funded evidence synthesis projects – one on ecosystem services and poverty alleviation, and the other on women’s labour market participation. I was SPC chairperson for EVIDENCE 2016 as well, and am very excited to see how EVIDENCE 2018 builds on, but is different to the previous conference.
I think the strands at this year’s EVIDENCE conference are a fantastic way to organise the programme into something even more meaningful for delegates. The conference will focus on priority areas on the continent and will bring researchers, government officials, NGOs, and others together to share learning around EIDM in these crucial areas.
Who are the strand leaders?
Dr Rose Oronje leads the Good Governance strand. Currently, Rose is the Director of Science Communication and Evidence Uptake at the African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP) in Kenya who has over 15 years’ experience in development research-to-policy communications and conducting policy analysis research. She also has extensive experience in designing and delivering capacity-building programmes in knowledge translation, and research utilisation by policy-makers, media practitioners, and civil society.
Dr Patrick Okwen fulfills many roles: he is a research fellow (at the Centre for Development of Best Practice in Health), a clinician, and a medical officer in Cameroon. This diversity of roles equips him well to lead the strand on Communicable Diseases at EVIDENCE 2018. In 2016, Partick was the recipient of the Cochrane Aubrey Sheiham Leadership award for evidence-based healthcare for Africa.
For the Climate Resilience strand, Sibonelo Mbanjwa – a director of climate change adaptation-natural resources with the South African Department for Environmental Affairs – is perfectly suited to his role as strand leader. Sibonelo has worked as a researcher at Rhodes University, and has worked in different provincial government departments in South Africa. Sibonelo currently manages the process of developing the National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy for South Africa.
Danielle Mason – head of research at the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) in the United Kingdom – will lead the Quality Education strand of EVIDENCE 2018. Danielle’s career began when she worked on poverty alleviation in South Africa after which she returned to the UK and specialised in poverty measurement and childhood deprivation. She’s worked within government as well as at various research institutes.
So what next?
The call for abstracts for EVIDENCE 2018 is now open, and closes on 30 April. I encourage all who are interested in this amazing event to submit an abstract and register.