Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Session Report: Leveraging Knowledge to Influence Policy by Gunilla Olsson

Session: Leveraging Knowledge to Influence Policy
Facilitator: Gunilla Olsson
Date and time: 21 January, 13.45 - 15.15 Canada room
Attendance: about 20 people, majority from IFAD; expressed satisfaction at the end of the session

Went very well. The structure of the session was:
  • three brief introductions by the presenters
  • three more in-depth contributions from partners of each project
  • Two rounds of questions on the presentations
  • Discussion on the relationship of knowledge and advocacy
Discussion outcomes:

1. On the role of knowledge in evidence based pro-poor policy making
  • Basing the priority-setting of public policies and development interventions on evidence implies involving the rural stakeholders in all phases of the process - from the monitoring, setting of indicators and analysis that precede planning, to the evaluation of concluded interventions.
  • A variety of tools such as participatory assessments on peoples' needs exist - these should always be used before planning and making resource allocations.
  • Evidence itself is not always enough to influence – level of impact depends on the power of the ones using the knowledge (whether they are taken into account or not). Coalitions between different actors can help overcome the gaps in power.
  • Leveraging knowledge on different levels simultaneously has proved to be the most efficient advocacy approach. How to institutionalize multi-actor partnerships that best support this approach?
2. On how knowledge can help create a level playing field between less and more powerful
  • There are different knowledges, each of which should be recognized as legitimate.
  • Access to information alone is not enough to create level playing field - opportunities to use the knowledge are also necessary.
  • Donors' role: convincing public sector of the importance of stakeholder inclusion; and building rural peoples capacities to participate.
  • Knowledge has to be converted into a useful format before it can be used for different ends – this another possible role for donors/dev.interventions.
  • Farmers' organisations and development agencies/interventions can ensure continuity of knowledge in a politically and institutionally unstable context.
  • To avoid risks of manipulation or marginalization and to achieve constructive outcomes, a balance between power, knowledge and information is necessary, both in the case of governments and farmers' organisations.
  • Effective partnership between policy makers and civil society requires a solid knowledge base. Yet there is a lack of capacity, both by the governments and the civil society, of monitoring and using knowledge to orient policy processes.

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