In September 2017, SNV Netherlands Development Organisation gathered 50 of our civil society partners across the six Voice for Change Partnership (V4CP) countries for a rich harvest of experiences and “learnings.” Aimed at guiding our work in the coming year, the reflections also brought together our strategic partners, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). As we note in our Annual Plan for 2018, all members of the V4CP extended family have experienced successes as well as setbacks. On the whole, the programme has hit the ground running since the start of implementation in 2016. In this brief summary, we highlight some of the insights gained from our experiences so far that will inform our work in future.
Using Theory of Change to improve our advocacy
Across the six V4CP countries – Burkina Faso, Ghana, Honduras, Kenya, Indonesia and Rwanda – our CSO partners report that they are becoming more proficient in using a Theory of Change (ToC) as a framework for planning, monitoring and adapting their advocacy strategies and practice. While the overall advocacy approach has not changed significantly, CSOs report that they increasingly use and adapt their ToCs to capitalise on emerging advocacy issues, to build relationships with new political actors and other stakeholders, and to ensure that they will remain well positioned to influence key policy processes.
In Kenya, for example, our partners realised that they had not paid sufficient attention to gender aspects in their initial envisaged outcomes of the advocacy on food and nutrition security (FNS), despite the important role women play in food production and trade, and overall nutritional status at household level. Accordingly, the ToC has been adapted to ensure that the women’s role is made more explicit, and their engagement in advocacy activities.
In Rwanda, meanwhile, partners are paying more attention to food fortification (adding micronutrients and vitamins to food to prevent nutritional deficiencies) and engaging relevant stakeholders more directly in their advocacy efforts.
In Indonesia, while the focus of advocacy has primarily been at the sub-national (district and provincial) levels, CSO partners noted the importance of linking these efforts with national-level processes and policies in order to bring about the desired changes at the local level. A direct outcome of this can be seen in the WASH sector, where the V4CP programme has highlighted the importance of focusing on sludge management, which was previously not included in the national Community Based Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach. With post-ODF (Open Defecation Free) activities receiving more attention from the government, CSOs saw an opportunity to focus on sludge management as an entry point for improving the provision of affordable, inclusive, and sustainable sanitation services by local governments and the private sector.
Linking global and local in our thematic programmes
While our advocacy is primarily driven by the national and local contexts in which we work, we also need a global “lens” through which to view and understand the challenges that we face. Nowhere is this global dimension more evident than in our work on climate. With climate change continuing to have a major impact on the livelihoods of pastoralist communities, our advocacy work in Burkina Faso is increasingly focused on supporting the government to effectively implement existing legal and policy frameworks that aim to promote sustainable solutions in the area of transhumance, conflicts, and grazing.
Given the interconnections among land tenure, natural resource-based conflicts, energy access and climate change, SNV and our partners are exploring alliances within and outside of the V4CP programme in order to strengthen CSOs’ voice and influence. Such efforts are paying off, as shown by the government’s recognition of one such alliance: a national network of 19 Burkinabe CSOs working on renewable energy.
In Honduras, CSOs adapted the ToCs to explicitly recognise the new governmental unit in charge of designing the country’s Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) under the Climate Change Convention. Another emerging theme is the need to access alternative sources of finance. In Kenya, CSOs are working to strengthen their expertise in the area of climate finance in order to mobilise additional resources to address pastoralists’ needs, while in Ghana the focus is on identifying financial support mechanisms for clean cooking initiatives.
Evidence: the crucial link in effective advocacy
One of the undeniable facts in successful advocacy is that governments and other stakeholders take CSOs more seriously when their inputs are based on “hard” evidence. The need to strengthen CSO capacities in research and evidence creation was a key reason for bringing IFPRI on board as a strategic partner. Already, this research partnership is paying off (see related updates on IFPRI’s partnership with Indonesian CSOs, as well as an interview with a partner Kenyan think tank, the Institute of Economic Affairs). Building CSO’s capacities encompasses: identifying evidence needs and gaps; reviewing and interpreting available data; using evidence to sharpen advocacy topics and demands; and refining advocacy messages to capitalise on the available evidence.
As our CSO partners enhance their skills on use of evidence and advocacy, they are increasingly shifting their focus from highlighting problems to proposing solutions. This approach lends itself well for building constructive partnerships to address the needs of the communities that CSOs aim to serve. To encourage continued learning and exchanges of good practice among our CSO partners, the V4CP programme supports partner CSOs’ participation at relevant regional and international events. In this newsletter, we highlight the experiences of two CSO partners who attended, respectively, the Clean Cooking Forum in New Delhi, India, and the ReSAKSS Annual Conference in Maputo, Mozambique.
Learn more about our programme experiences in 2016-17 in the “Learnings” chapter of 2018 Annual Plan.