Policy making as seen from “the belly of the beast”: audio recording

September 4, 2008

From her position at the “centre of power” or the “belly of the beast”, Dr Mateora Sadan, Senior Policy Analyst in the policy co-ordination advisory service within the South African Presidency shared her reflections on the nature of “evidence based policy making across the South African government system. This is the audio recording of her presentation during the opening session of the “Locating Power of In-between” conference.

Speaking openly and frankly Dr Sadan argued that there has definitely been a shift towards wanting to engage and utilise research more, but acknowledged that there is uneven use of research evidence across different departments. Dr Sadan cited the Department of a Social Development as a positive example of a department that engages with evidence, motivated she argued by their need to defend their decisions to the Treasury Department. However in other parts of the government system often people use research that supports their position, that might come down to basing decisions on one research paper.

Dr Sadan identified problems as lying with both researchers and policy makers: she questioned the communication style of some researchers, saying that within government circles some research reports are known as “doorstoppers” as they are so heavy and impenetrable; on the other hand she questioned the assumption that policy makers are actually able to assess and interpret information and apply it effectively. She then went on to identify some practical approaches to addressing these challenges.

Listen to Dr Sadan’s 10 minute presentation.
Read the blog of the session.

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How do research brokers and intermediaries contribute to evidence based policy making? Revisiting the hypotheses

July 22, 2008
Closing plenary session - Jane Ireri (AMREF), James Nguo (ALIN), Ananya Raihan (DNet)

Closing plenary session - Jane Ireri (AMREF), James Nguo (ALIN), Ananya Raihan (DNet)

I always enjoy the closing session of a conference. As I’m reflecting on what I’ll take away it’s good to find out if it’s the same – or the complete opposite – of the other people in the room. Here are some of the things that they were thinking.

  • being an information repository is not enough – intermediaries are part of the knowledge flow
  • intermediaries can’t be fully neutral – but this isn’t the end of the world
  • intermediaries can (should?) have influence at all levels – how are we connecting at the grassroots?
  • more work is needed on monitoring and evaluation – we’re putting all this work in but how do we judge our impact?
  • policy makers make decisions on the fly with a lot of information in their heads – how can we make sure that research is one of these things?
  • people were encouraged by the fact that funders had taken the time to come to the conference – it shows that there is a real interest in what we’re doing?
  • this was an invaluable networking opportunity

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“Thorny issues” and issues emerging for research brokers and intermediaries

July 22, 2008

This plenary session aimed to address some of the ‘thorny issues’ for intermediaries which have emerged over the course of the past two days. The chair, Catherine Fisher, invited suggestions from the floor on what some of these issues might be. The participants then formed groups to tackle each one separately and came up with key points and, in some cases, ideas for next steps:

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Uncovering Open Access: seizing the moment and making it work for you – experiences from the ground

July 22, 2008

Led by: Martie van Deventer, Head of Information Services Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CISR) South Africa

There is extensive coverage and discussion in various disciplines and the literature regarding open access. The open access movement is supported and advanced by a wide range of interest goups and activities such as national and international organisations, the academic community, governments and publishers. While open access is gaining strength and popularity as the new model for dissemination of information, there are still many unresolved issues particularly in its application. This session covered challenges and rewards in this area and focuses particularly on the implementation of Institutional Repositories and the development of publishing models.

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Edge of Networks: success factors in virtual collaboration and networking for research-policy linkages

July 22, 2008

Led by: Damir Simunic, Edge of Networks, WA Research SA, Switzerland

This workshop introduced the Edge of Network (http://edgeof.net); a new concept describing important success factors in virtual collaboration and networking. It has emerged from seven years of trial and error work in virtual collaboration in a number of large international organizations and non-profits including WHO, UNAIDS, UNHCR. The workshop went beyond the theory and introduced concrete success factors, important for brokering research and virtual collaboration in general.

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Evaluating research brokers and intermediaries: What is success? And how do we measure it?

July 21, 2008

Identifying outcomes and impact, monitoring and information of research brokering and intermediation

Led by: Anna Downie , Strategic Learning Initiative, IDS

Anna Downie began the session by summarising what funders want – “to know how we’re reducing world poverty through our websites”. When it’s put like that, it’s clear what a task that actually is.

In a round of introductions, participants shared why they were particularly interested in M & E and the challenges they face. Challenges ranged from wanting to develop indicators and frameworks to wanting to justify your existence and evaluate without doing yourself out of a job! One thing everyone had in common was wanting to know what influence they had.

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Web 2.0 and what it means for brokering and intermediation

July 21, 2008

Led by Peter Ballentyne and Chris Addison, Euforic (www.euforic.org) / R4D (www.research4development.info/)

Peter began by suggesting that ‘web 2.0 is difficult to explain – the best thing is to see it and to do it’, so he promised to use examples as much as possible. He briefly described some of key principles that underpin it, including the importance of: user generated content, user re-mixed content, and tools that enable inter-connections and interactions between users.

By employing web 2.0 tools he explained how anyone can become an author, publisher or broadcaster, and that they enable a different way of interacting with knowledge. Website visitors become participants, and ordinary people (who might be policy makers or researchers) can become communication specialists, without the need for institutional infrastructures.

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