A pan-African colloquium of research, advocacy, and media partner organizations was convened by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in partnership with the Southern Africa Trust. The colloquium focused on learning from practical experience in trying to build linkages between research, advocacy and media groups for more effective pro-poor policy work by each group, the challenges and successes in linking the work of the three groups, developing concepts and strategies for how their work can be joined up, their expectations of each other, and the implications for funders.
The discussion confirmed that there are generally weak relationships between the three groups of non-state actors and that this is one of the constraints to doing effective pro-poor policy development and social accountability work in Africa. Media representatives pointed out that researchers tend to use a language which other constituencies do not understand and that researchers are often reluctant to share research results either due to copyright rules, client-privileges or due to the need to validate the results with other researchers before making them available to the public.
Media practitioners, on the other hand, are often limited in their ability to report on research results as a result of weak interpretive skills on specialised or technical content issues, limited in-depth reporting capacity, and being driven by very tight deadlines in news rooms. Advocacy groups tend to undertake campaigns and other initiatives without being adequately informed and backed up by a solid evidence base developed through research. The discussion also noted that both researchers and advocacy groups are not adequately using mass media channels to build public support, shape public thinking, and create a more receptive environment for their policy recommendations.
The colloquium noted that policy development and implementation outcomes can be more effective by building a chain of value-adding linkages between role players from within the different groups. This requires that each role player realises the necessity of the value chain for increased effectiveness of each of their areas of work, in which all should be playing an important and complementary role. However each must acknowledge and accept the legitimate differences in ways of working between the different groups and that there may be some areas of work in which there is no value chain cooperation required.