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Wednesday, 26 April 2017 16:49

Evidence in African parliaments

by Esme Mroz-Davies

“The lifeblood of parliaments is information... you can have people disagreeing on politics but not about facts... this is why reliable evidence is so important for policy.” Dr Rasheed Draman, Executive Director of the African Centre for Parliamentary Affairs (ACEPA).
On Monday 24th April I attended an event held in Westminster that shed light on navigating parliamentary systems and offered advice and lessons to better understand the complexities surrounding evidence uptake and usage in parliaments. The event provided useful tips for researchers and policymakers.

TIPS FOR RESEARCHERS: How to maximise evidence use in Parliaments:

Politics
• Be aware of your context – culture and contexts affect acceptability of evidence.
• Understand political priorities – knowing policymakers’ information needs is key.
• Understand the leadership and organisational culture of Parliament – what are the protocols and is the parliamentary leadership supportive of evidence use?
Resources
• Limited resources / access to resources affects the generation and use of evidence in parliament. Parliament-based researchers may be thin on the ground – outside researchers should reach out to MPs to maximise visibility.
• Access to resources can depend on whether access to knowledge is valued by leaders in parliament.
Visibility of research
• Evidence must be synthesised for maximise usage – provide policy briefs, infographics etc. to make the evidence accessible to those outside the research sphere.
Impartiality
• Evidence should be neutral to maximise uptake and acceptability. MPs are not just interested in the evidence, but where it comes from – what is the validity of the source and are there any biases?
Systematise processes for making evidence accessible
• Make it easier to get information into the right hands at the right time (e.g. have a process in place for producing evidence / policy briefs quickly and efficiently).

TIPS FOR POLICYMAKERS: Replicable ideas to maximise evidence use in African Parliaments:

Parliamentary research week
Holding a parliamentary research week can:
•Strengthen demand for evidence from MPs;
•Raise visibility of research in parliament; and
•Strengthen collaborations between a country’s research community and parliament.

Advice for holding such a research week included holding an exhibition outside parliament (get MPs away from their desks!) and hosting thematic breakout sessions to maximise interest. In 2016, INASP held a successful research week with Ugandan parliamentarians. They are currently tracking information requests from MPs to measure the success of this pilot scheme.

Pairing schemes
Pairing schemes or  fellowships between policymakers and researchers, strengthen linkages between evidence generation and evidence uptake. In fact just including a meeting between researchers and MPs in a new MPs induction would be useful so that researchers can understand a new MP’s research needs.

The event was co-hosted by INASP, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK Branch, and the UK Parliamentiary Office of Science and Technology, and chaired by Alexander Ademokun of DFID, EHPSA’s core funder.

For further information, INASP have published a Storify of the event. Read....

 

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