Julius Court - RAPID, ODI, UK
Vanessa Weyrauch - Centro de Implementación de Políticas Públicas para la Equidad y el Crecimiento (CIPPEC), Argentina
Poor people benefit when civil society is engaged in shaping policy, particularly when engagement is legitimate and well-informed. Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) increasingly recognise the need to engage with policy processes more effectively. However, policy contexts are challenging, policy processes are complex and CSOs are often financially insecure, have weak capacity and are poorly connected. So, how can CSOs maximize their chances of influencing policy towards meeting the needs of the poor?
There is widespread agreement on the vital role that CSOs can 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, and are seeking support to do this. Recent experience (including ODIs) suggests that CSOs in the South engage successfully with the policy processes of their governments and of international institutions when they: (a) understand how policy processes work; (b) generate high-quality, practically relevant research or have access to such research, e.g. through research/practitioner networks; (c) access and participate in policy networks; and (d) communicate their concerns in an effective and credible manner. Some CSOs meet these criteria. Others do not.
This participatory workshop focused on how CSOs can maximize their chances of influencing policy towards meeting the needs of the poor. The workshop was oriented around:
- a Case Study of CIPPEC Influencing the Educational Budget in Argentina
- discussion exercises to identify critical factors affecting CSO-policy engagement
- a presentation from ODI on what there studies have found about key issues and about how CSOs can become more effective at policy engagement.
- general discussion on what works and doesn't work in different contexts
The workshop enabled Southern CSO participants to:
- discuss the different political contexts and entry points for CSO engagement in policy processes,
- discuss how engagement can be more effective in influencing pro-poor policy.
- initiate a community of practice of CSOs interested to work on using evidence in influencing the policy-making processes.
Influencing the Educational Budget in Argentina: The CIPPEC Case
CIPPEC is an organisation that focuses on research, advocacy, monitoring and implementation. CIPPEC has a multidisciplinary team with clear and legitimized leadership. CIPPEC has various experiences in policy influence:
- Experience from the civil society standpoint: capacity building, monitoring and influence through alliances with CSOs.
- Experience from the political standpoint: advice and implementation with provincial governments.
In this particular case, the CIPPEC project was 'The educational provinces' - a comparative analysis of the implementation of the Federal Education Law in the 24 jurisdictions.
CIPPEC started with the creation of an external international Advisory Council to ensure quality and reputation. They selected a differential focus (provincial level) and based on a milestone of the policy under study (10 years after implementation). They used a participatory approach in engagement of all stakeholders to build consensus and to identify potential reforms. They also did intensive follow ups of media coverage to assess prevailing discourses.
The actual work involved detection and analysis of all related policy proposals, translation of findings into a clear and simple format (rankings, indexes, etc.), and use of language of policymakers and face to face interaction.
- Credibility: the comparative look and academic rigour as key factors.
- Capacity building: produced two handbooks on how to influence the educational budget and the social investment in children.
- Policy debate: active participation in the diverse stages of the discussion and sanction of the Education Financing Law.
- Media campaign: dissemination of the provincial report through local media and partnership with a local CSO.
- Combined and staged process: a window of opportunity with the change of a government accused of corruption and arrival of 'fresh air'.
- High impact in media, policymakers and educational sectors: awareness of the urgent need to address budgetary issues.
- Hired by the new Minister of Education to provide advice.
- Draft of a law for investment in education. Governor refuses to commit. Mingled actors and steps.
- The initiative is welcome by part of the oposition in the provincial Congress (ARI). Unpredictable alliances: changes in power.
- Sanction of a law to increase investment in education (reach 25% increase in 4 years).
- Influencing public policies implies interrupting chaotic, complex, unpredictable processes.
- The double thrust of interrupting and walking along the forces in the decision making processes.
- Work with a double perspective: the comparison brought by a foreigner and alliances with organisations with local knowledge.
- Dialogue with all stakeholders, find a niche in discourse.
- Challenge: fulfillment of laws in unstable legal domains.
- Secure long term funding: processes are long and unexpected opportunities arise.
Discussion: CSOs and policy influence - challenges and opportunities
Questions for discussion:
- What are the main enabling factors?
- What are the main barriers?
- Research: policy influencing should be grounded on evidence. This evidence is from research.
- Need to understand the political nature of CSOs interface with governments in policy influencing. There should be open mechanisms for consultations.
- A clear understanding of the policy making process by the CSOs.
- Clear set of strategies that should involve the media and be flexible enough.
- Resources (human, material time and money).
- Credibility, legitimacy and ability to represent wider views.
- CSOs Capacity
- Process knowledge
- CSO evidence not seen as credible
- Policy Processes not open and corrupt
- Lack of capacity to use evidence
In some countries, adverse political contexts continue to be the main barrier to informed policy engagement. CSOs can try to improve the situation and influence policy but their options are limited. In many contexts, the extent of CSOs impact on policy is in their own hands. By getting the fundamentals right - assessing context, engaging policymakers, getting rigorous evidence, working with partners, communicating well - CSOs can overcome key internal obstacles.
Civil society organisations (CSOs) could have a greater impact on policy processes in developing countries. This report shows why and how better use of evidence by CSOs is part of the solution to increasing the policy influence and pro-poor impact of...