In an environment where Zimbabwe is experiencing an increasingly tightening economic squeeze and decreasing foreign investor confidence due to an unstable political environment, policy inconsistencies and misplaced development priorities there is need to link and harmonise the different players in the policy-making process. These include think-tanks, members of the public the media including academic and research institutions and of-course the policy makers themselves. Information is central to the whole process so there should be vibrant links among these important institutions. Research plays a very critical role in informing policy decisions. It is therefore imperative that government and development partners support relevant research and build capacity to utilize it either through its commercialisation or to inform people centered, progressive policy decisions that contribute to positive change and general human development.
A local organization, Zimbabwe Evidence Informed Policy Network (Network) which is part of an international consortium called VakaYiko has filled a very important gap in the Zimbabwe policy-making environment. They are filling this gap through building capacity of government of Zimbabwe so that policymakers and their support staff realize not only the importance of using research information as a basis for policy decisions but also have the skills to appraise the information for credibility. In an interview with the Director of ZeipNET, Mr. Ronald Munatsi, our ZimOnline News reporter obtained an insight into what ZeipNET is doing to ensure that government has capacity to make what he termed “Evidence Informed Policies.” Mr. Munatsi pointed out that ZeipNET works across the whole research-to-policy spectrum where it builds capacity and provides platforms for engagement between policy makers and other important stakeholders. “Our role as far as evidence informed policy-making is concerned is focused on both the demand and supply sides. We strengthen the capacity of researchers and those intermediaries who feed policymakers with information so that they can effectively access, evaluate and communicate research evidence to policymakers. At the same time we also sensitise high level policymakers on the importance of using evidence, how to engage with research evidence and how to articulate and act on the research to inform their decisions”
Over the last two years, ZeipNET has trained over 50 middle level civil servants who work in government research departments and the Parliament of Zimbabwe on how to pro-actively search for evidence, assess the evidence and communicate it in a form suitable for policymakers. ZeipNET also supports stakeholder engagement activities through policy dialogues and knowledge cafes. Mr. Munatsi added that their organization is also in the process of building a conglomeration of the various players who have a stake in the policymaking process by building networks and collaborative platforms for engagement. To this end, they have organized a forum on strengthening the institutional framework that supports the use of research in decision making to be held on the 5th of February 2016 at the Crowne Plaza Monomotapa Hotel in Harare. The event is a collaboration between ZeipNET and the Africa Evidence Network (AEN). AEN is a community of people who work in Africa and have an interest in evidence, its production and use in decision-making.