On 1st October 2014, the Ghana Information Network for Knowledge Sharing (GINKS), as part of the VakaYiko consortium, launched an Evidence-Informed Policy Making (EIPM) training programme for civil servants and information support staff of parliament at the Civil Service Training Centre (CSTC) in Accra. EIPM is a development approach that encourages the use of robust evidence for policymaking purposes.
Through this programme, we sought to equip policymakers with the requisite skills to enable them to understand the need for evidence, access and assess these, and use robust research evidence in policymaking. It attempts to fill the gap between policymakers and researchers.
We took participants through topics that included the policy development process, EIPM in their workplaces, the concepts of evidence and EIPM, types of evidence, justifications for research evidence and the challenges of using evidence.
Other topics included an introduction to a search strategy, understanding the request for information, familiarising themselves with a topic, using their networks, choosing the right literature, searching in the right places, using the right terms and keywords in searching, and filtering results after a search.
The remaining topics were, justifications for assessing evidence, an approach to critically assess evidence, an introduction to research design, effective communication and messaging, presenting key messages and evidence, effective written communications, and data visualization and infographics.
National development issues and course feedback
Two years after the takeoff, we have, together with our partners, trained 94 civil servants and 39 information support staff of parliament in six training sessions – thus, four sessions for civil servants and two sessions for parliamentary staff.
At the launch of the programme, the Head of the Civil Service, Nana K. Agyekum Dwamena, said the country had gone through the evaluation of the Ghana Shared Growth and Development Agenda (GSGDA I) and recently launched the GSGDA II (read more here).
He therefore urged policy analysts at Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) to start looking at those documents and find out the linkage of policies to their ministries so that action plans from the workshop were not drawn without aspiration to national development.
Nana Agyekum lauded the EIPM paradigm as a unique policy approach that would move people away from the usual desk top policy formulation to a more rigorous scientific process.
Clara Richards, Head of EIPM at the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP), said civil servants needed skills to be able to search for relevant information and effectively communicate it to those who make policy.
At the training for parliamentary staff, which started in January 2016, the Deputy Clerk of Parliament, Alhaji Ibrahim Gombilla, who opened the training on behalf of the Clerk of Parliament, Mr. Emmanuel K. Anyimadu, applauded GINKS and VakaYiko for choosing the Parliament of Ghana as a beneficiary of the programme, since EIPM was very important to the work of the parliamentary staff.
The uniqueness and consistency of the EIPM course was admired by both participants and resource persons. At the closing ceremony of the 4th session for civil servants, the participants said in their training report that the workshop had fine-tuned and sharpened their focus on EIPM. According to them, “it is indeed evident that the programme has been successful and we hope to discharge our duties as expected of us with the knowledge and skills acquired here”. These participants expressed appreciation to the sponsoring agencies and promised to be change agents as they went back to their various Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
Going forward based on previous experiences
To sustain the intervention at the CSTC, we again partnered the CSTC to organize a five-day training of trainers (ToT) workshop, aimed at equipping beneficiary trainees with the competence to manage and facilitate training sessions on EIPM skillfully and also create a pool of trainers to aid CSTC deliver on its mandate. Participants benefited from knowledge, skills and attitude to facilitate adult learning, and the ToT enabled these new trainers to work with other civil servants, with or without donor support.
For all the training sessions held, we incorporated knowledge from experienced industry players within the research-to-policy sector to share first-hand experience with participants. Dr. Grace Bediako, former Government of Ghana Statistician; Nina Chachu, Librarian at Aseshi University and Dr. Joel Sam, both from the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Ghana (CARLIGH); Dr. Naalamle Amissah and Dr. Niilante Amissah, both from the College of Basic and Applied Sciences (CBAS) of the University of Ghana; were among such expertise consulted.
Others include Prof. A. A. Alemna, former University Librarian for the University of Ghana; Dr. Henry Telli, from the International Growth Centre (IGC); and Isidore Kpotufe and Aboagye Mintah, both from the IMANI Centre for Policy and Education. There was also a site visit to the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) during the fourth session of training for civil servants.
It has been an exciting two years already, and GINKS has worked successfully with all programme partners to develop a training toolkit for EIPM. We have also delivered training for the civil and parliamentary services of Ghana, and furthermore institutionalized the EIPM course at the CSTC.
It is our hope that the positive feedback that we have started receiving such as increased capacity to access, evaluate and use evidence and the introduction of innovations by beneficiaries of these trainings to improve information management in their institutions encourage the uptake of particularly research evidence in policymaking in Ghana.
VakaYiko is led by INASP, and includes other members like the ODI, GINKS, ZeipNET, HSRC and the Research Department of the Parliament of Uganda. Country partners in Ghana include the CSTC, Office of the Head of Civil Service, and the Parliamentary Service of Ghana. Funding of the programme was by the United Kingdom’s DfID.
This article was co-written by Kirchuffs Atengble and Sole N. Jotie.