South-South cooperation efforts within “Spaces for engagement” program

By Leandro Echt, Coordinator of the Influence, Monitoring and Evaluation Program at CIPPEC

Every two years, the Colombian Confederation of NGOs (CCONG) holds the National Conference of NGOs in partnership with regional NGO Federations. This year, CCONG and the Caldas’ Federation of NGOs brought the “V National Meeting of Colombian NGOs: social innovation for development, an analysis from the NGO” to Manizales, Colombia.

Encuentro-Nacional-de-ONG-2012-090-e1380738795998The meeting aimed at creating a space for dialogue and reflection among leaders and representatives of social organizations, as well as other stakeholders in Colombia. The dialogue was targeted at the importance of having an innovative social sector to contribute to the peace process, governance and territorial development.

Established throughout the meeting, a South-South Cooperation Forum aimed at knowing the trends of South-South cooperation in Colombia, sharing experiences of South-South cooperation between NGOs and other stakeholders, analyzing South- South cooperation as a modality to be strengthened among NGOs, and identifying realities, challenges and opportunities for cooperation among NGOs.
CIPPEC was invited to participate in this Forum and share its experience within the program “Spaces for engagement: using knowledge to improve public decisions (SFE)”. A joint initiative between GDNet and CIPPEC, SFE encompass­es six years of intensive work (2008-2013) that aimed at creating diverse spaces of engagement with the participation of researchers from policy research institutions (PRIs) that conduct or use investigations to influence policy, policymakers, and/or decision making processes. For that purpose, it sought to work with a Community of Practice (CoP) gathering selected researchers from think tanks and research institutes, as well as policymakers who are strongly committed to improving the use of development research in policymaking in Latin America. The program also seeks to promote South-South cooperation on linking research and policy between Latin America, Asia and Africa.

The activities promoted within the SFE program have always been aligned with some of the principles of South-South Cooperation: increased sensitivity to specific contexts; promotion of self-reliance; diversification of ideas; approaches and methods of cooperation; preference for employment of local resources (ownership); adaptation to national priorities; and lower cost with greater impact.

Regarding approaches and methods, SFE was built around three main ones: research production; capacity building; and networking. These different approaches are interrelated and feed each other through a continuous fertilization between theory and practice, building an integrated approach to address the link between research and policy in the developing world. Moreover, CIPPEC conducts different technical assistances to think tanks, CSOs and governments with inputs from SFE activities.

Research production

SFE has always encouraged local production of relevant knowledge about the link between research and policy in Latin America. In this regard, CIPPEC and GDNet contacted local researchers and organizations to share their own experience in trying to influence the policy making process.  See Bridging research and public policy in Latin America. Rethinking the roles and challenges for policy research institutes and Study on monitoring and evaluation of the research impact in the public policy of policy research institutes in Latin America.

During the six years of SFE, one of the most relevant activities has been the organization of annual regional meetings, based on the deep conviction about the value of building a Latin American community of practice to share knowledge on research and policy.

Capacity Building

Since 2010, CIPPEC and GDNet improved their capacity building activities by creating an online platform to deliver virtual courses. The latter have proven to be a great space to generate horizontal relationships and promote knowledge sharing and cross learning between organizations from different developing countries around the world. This also strengthens links and potential joint work among peer organizations. 15 online courses were delivered in the last four years: 11 for Latin America and 4 for Asia and Africa. 225 researchers, policy research institutes, civil society organizations, policy makers and univer­sities were trained on critical issues for policy influence, M&E and research communications.

Networking

Another key methodology intended to promote cross-learning between Southern organizations was the peer assistance. GDNet and CIPPEC have supported mutual learning between policy research institutes in Latin America, Africa and Asia on issues that contribute to enhance their policy influence capacities. The aim was to strengthen the influence of policy research institutes through access to the lessons learned from their peers about the impact of their research. Research organizations from Zimbabwe, Argentina, Colombia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Uruguay, Peru and Ecuador share their experience in influencing the policy making process.

All these activities were presented at the “V National Meeting of Colombian NGOs” through CIPPEC’s presentation (only available in Spanish). The latter concludes with some key challenges that southern organizations, especially in Latin America, will face in the short term. The first one has to do with scarce resources and the competition among organizations. NGOs will need to deal with the dilemma of generalization vs. specialization regarding its work. New technologies also entail a challenge for NGOs in terms of communication and how to use them effectively to reach key audiences. Finally, political polarization, which is very high in Latin America, is an issue that will influence research organizations’ daily work and could affect its reputation if it is not well managed.

Check the presentation here

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