2016 was an exciting and dynamic year for the Voice for Change Partnership! We started off with high response rates for the CSO selection process, had motivating capacity development workshops that also served as good 'meeting places' for the CSOs, and were able to create local ownership and alignment by contextualising the various theories of change and advocacy plans. Throughout this first year, we noticed that our long-term presence in the countries has helped in building trust and gaining support from governments for our programme's advocacy activities.
The Voice for Change Partnership (V4CP) programme is led by SNV, in close collaboration with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. By focusing on advocacy for an enabling environment through engagement with civil society organisations (CSOs), we ensure that the interests of low-income and marginalised communities are embedded in government and business policies and practices.
We support CSOs in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Honduras, Indonesia, Kenya and Rwanda through three intervention strategies: capacity development, evidence generation and dissemination, and design and implementation of advocacy plans. In terms of the capacity development trajectory we have held multiple in-country workshops on leadership, advocacy, evidence, thematic knowledge and organisational sustainability. In addition, IFPRI and national research institutions have been actively engaged to assist the CSOs in accessing, packaging and using relevant data. As Jessie Bokhoven, Global Programme Manager, comments, "Collecting high quality data takes time and costs money, so it is important for CSOs to learn to access and use existing sources. We also need to improve their research interpretation skills, as they may need to draw conclusions from relevant research findings from different contexts. These skills are also essential for the continuation of their evidence-based advocacy work beyond the term of the V4CP programme."
To further strengthen the future advocacy activities, specific information and evidence needs have also been identified. During the various workshops, practical examples were given of how research can be used effectively to influence policy, and CSOs have been guided in identifying key issues in order to improve the focus of their advocacy campaigns. As one of the participants in Kenya commented, "We worked on policy analysis and policy briefs, which I greatly valued because I could practice both my analytical skills and the drafting and presenting of policy briefs at the same time."
The programme addresses four themes: Food & Nutrition Security, Renewable Energy, Resilience, and Water, Sanitation & Hygiene. For each of these, in each of the countries, advocacy plans were drafted jointly by the CSOs, SNV, and IFPRI. The plans include an outline of the context analysis, the theory of change and the monitoring & evaluation framework, as well as an engagement strategy and activity and resource planning. Subsequently, the plans were also translated into individual CSO action plans. Here are some first results from the related advocacy activities:
- In Burkina Faso, SNV facilitated the participation of the CSOs working on Resilience and FNS in the review of the government-led National Rural Sector Programme, where they brought forward their advocacy messages. They are now also involved in the review process at regional level.
- One of the CSOs in Honduras was included in government meetings on the Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA) on energy efficient cookstoves. With this, the participation of CSOs in the NAMA committee was increased, and the CSO in question could establish relationships with donors and key government departments. This was enabled by SNV and another CSO in Honduras.
- In Kenya, with support from SNV, one of the CSOs advocated the removal of VAT on improved cookstoves in a meeting with the Parliament Committee for Budget & Trade. This resulted in removal of VAT for the stoves and materials used to make them, announced by the government in September 2016.
- Also in Kenya, SNV and WASH CSOs jointly shared the V4CP advocacy messages in the exhibition at the Kenya Water Week Conference & Exhibition in November 2016. We advocated the need for proper budget allocation, and for insights into budget tracking at county level.
- In Rwanda, a workshop was organised bringing together key stakeholders to improve coordination of the District Plan for Elimination of Malnutrition (DPEM), a government initiative developed and owned by districts to fight malnutrition. This workshop influenced all the District Mayors in the eastern province to include nutrition in their performance contracts for the first time.
In the coming year, we will be looking more in-depth at monitoring & evaluation and the collection of reliable data to backup advocacy arguments. We see that a substantial transformation is needed to ensure that the enabling environment for the chosen themes will be more conducive to achieve impact and to lift people out of poverty. In an era where civic space is under pressure and essential stakeholders are left out, we are convinced that the V4CP programme is a valuable initiative and we are enthusiastic to make a solid contribution and face the challenges ahead.