The Commonwealth Education Fund (CEF) is a collaboration between the UK Government, leading UK development agencies - Action Aid, Oxfam and Save the Children - and the private sector. The uniqueness of CEF lies in the fact that it is aimed not at supplying immediate educational needs (such as new schools and textbooks) but at creating a social and political environment in which education becomes the number one national priority for developing nations. CEF works strategically with civil society organisations in countries likely to miss the education and gender MDGs, in order to make education a sustained domestic priority and to make public schools work effectively for all children. The CEF builds and supports national coalitions and networks so as to enable them to advocate for education policy in support of quality basic education for all.
The workshop was designed for CEF coordinators and partners in Africa who wanted to know more about how to influence policy as well as to develop a draft policy influencing strategy for their respective country programmes. The workshop provided a forum for participants to:
- Discuss the opportunities and challenges for CSOs to inform policy;
- Learn about the latest worldwide research and practice in this area;
- Share experiences about ongoing activities and what works;
- Identify gaps for future work.
A similar workshop was carried out in Bangladesh for CEF’s Asian partners, by Naved Chowdhury from RAPID.
Workshop participants shared a wide range of other examples based on their own experience. Several cases discussed during the workshops illustrate how it has been possible to influence energy policy through participatory research, information provision and the strategic use of simple policy advocacy tools. While it clearly is possible for CSOs to influence policy, the policy context in Africa makes this difficult and few CSOs have well developed policy advocacy skills.
Those who have the skills and experience of policy engagement, however, contributed with particularly relevant and important cases and advice for their fellow CEF members.
Participants at the workshops made a number of suggestions for further work by ODI to help them to promote pro-poor approaches to policymakers in the education sector, including practical training, information about policy options from other countries, key background information on macroeconomic and other related issues and ongoing support for the full development and implementation of policy influencing strategies.