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Beneficiaries Taking the Lead in Capacity Development to Strengthen EIPM in Zimbabwe

The level of diversity, equity and inclusion underpinning development projects are critical elements in fostering relevance, effectiveness, impact and sustainability. Inadequate consideration of these crucial elements has resulted in some criticism focusing on the misalignment of Evidence-Informed Policy Making (EIPM) capacity development initiatives with the needs and demands of beneficiaries and other critical stakeholders. Solutions to EIPM capacity gaps must not be biased towards development partners’ objectives and priorities but must be demand-driven from the beneficiary perspectives and co-created. Development partners may provide technical and sometimes resource support but should not impose solutions. Capacity development interventions in EIPM must stem from inclusive and pluralistic engagement to achieve social relevance and align with beneficiaries’ local socio-political context and expectations. The abovementioned issues emanated from a round table discussion involving representatives from the Parliament of Zimbabwe (PoZ), the Zimbabwe Evidence-Informed Policy Network (ZeipNET) and IDinsight on the 24th January, 2023. The round table discussed the strengths of the PoZ evidence-informed policy-making structures and diagnosed gaps and opportunities to enhance the PoZ individual, institutional and systemic level capacities. Ultimately the three partners seek to establish a rapid evidence synthesis platform that quickly responds to Parliamentarians and staff evidence needs through strengthening existing evidence demand and supply systems, including linkages with other actors in the evidence-to-policy ecosystem.

The highlighted institutional and individual capacity gaps are not unique to the PoZ but also typify other parliaments. So, lessons learnt from this project can benefit another parliament within the same or similar context. These include staff skills, the agility of existing processes, and inadequate access and use of technology that impact access to evidence, synthesis and packaging for practical policy-making use. The round table revealed limited individual technical skills for rapidly collecting and synthesizing data, data analysis and interpretation, visualization and presentation, and effective writing of policy briefs. Lack of integration and inadequate use of existing systems, including the Knowledge Management System, informatics database, Geographic Information System (GIS), and other emerging technologies, makes facilitating a more responsive and interactive knowledge platform challenging. There is limited use of networks and a lack of formal alliances with research institutions, think tanks, civic society and other external actors. Other political barriers include bureaucracy and red tape to evidence access through traditional avenues.

The roundtable suggested several opportunities for capacity strengthening through the PoZ, ZeipNET and IDInsight partnership. With the PoZ leading the process, there is a need for capacity building on technical skills through training in writing effective policy briefs; data analysis and informatics skills, including using more efficient software (GIS, Artificial intelligence, STATA, etc.); and data usage in budget analyses. There is also a need for upskilling staff in creating visualizations such as infographics for effectively communicating evidence insights and how to better present complex information to legislators with diverse levels of education and literacy. IDinsight has developed a boot camp program that trains technical experts in various research, data analysis processes and impact evaluations using modern technology to deliver and assess participants. The partnership will map and coordinate relevant internal and external stakeholders for data and evidence pooling to leverage research and data gathered in districts and constituencies. Such a mechanism would facilitate sharing and enhance parliamentary research communication to increase its reach and engagement. In addition to the existing structures, the partnership will consider creating evidence champions and a forum for promoting data quality, evidence use, and capacity strengthening among parliamentarians. Suggested ways to strengthen structures include institutionalizing an EIPM caucus similar to the one supported by AFIDEP in Kenya, expanding the role of the APNODE caucus or creating a new forum that convenes House committees without requiring membership. Benchmarking with other progressive parliaments, active stakeholder engagement, streamlining, and integration of existing systems are critical in implementing the suggestions from the roundtable. Such an approach creates avenues and platforms to promote sharing of robust evidence, using new technology and skills sharing with the broader evidence ecosystem.

About the author: Ronald Munatsi is the Director of the Zimbabwe Evidence Informed Policy Network (ZeipNET). ZeipNET works to interface evidence and policy through evidence synthesis initiatives, including institutional capacity building focusing on the interface between research and policy with an emphasis on strengthening capacities across individual, institutional and systemic levels.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in published blog posts, as well as any errors or omissions, are the sole responsibility of the author/s and do not represent the views of ZeipNET, its secretariat, its trustees, its partners, or its funders; nor does it imply endorsement by the afore-mentioned parties.

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