John Young, ODI
The UK Overseas Development Institute's (ODI) Research and Policy in Development Programme (RAPID) has been working on the interface between research and policy for the last five years. It has developed a framework to help researchers and practitioners understand the policy context they are working in and make strategic choices about what they should do to maximize the impact of their work on policy and practice. Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) also have an important role to play in influencing policies and practices to make them pro-poor. More and more CSOs are recognising the need to understand policy processes better and use evidence to engage with them more effectively. ODI has recently launched a new programme to help CSOs do this better.
This workshop was designed to provide a forum for CSOs in Kenya to discuss the opportunities and challenges they face when they try to inform policy and share experiences abut what works and doesn't work, learn about the latest worldwide research and practice in this area, and identify gaps for future work.
The African Energy Policy Research Network (AFREPREN) brings together 106 African energy researchers and policy makers from Africa who have a long-term interest in energy research and the attendant policy-making process. AFREPREN is involved in a major study of bridging research and policy in the energy sector in Africa for the Global Development Network.
A case study of work by AFREPREN illustrated how it has been possible to influence energy policy through participatory research, information provision and the strategic use of simple policy advocacy tools, and workshop participants shared a wide range of other examples based on their own experience. While it clearly is possible for CSOs to influence policy, the policy context in Kenya makes this difficult and few CSOs have well developed policy advocacy skills.
The RAPID Framework provides both an analytical tool to help understand the political context CSOs are working in and a practical approach to decide what needs to be done to maximize impact. There are a wide range of communication and policy advocacy tools to ensure that policy makers and practitioners get the message.
Participants at the workshop made a number of suggestions for further work to help them to promote pro-poor approaches to policy makers in Kenya including practical training, information about policy options from other countries, and help to establish policy fora and networks in Kenya.