The West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) has organized a one-day workshop on the theme: “Managing Knowledge for Policy Influence in West Africa”for some stakeholders in the civil society organizations (CSOs) on Monday, in Accra.
The workshop, according to the Executive Director of WACSI, Nana Afidzanu, was aimed at bringing together researchers and practitioners from diverse fields as potential members of a WASCI faculty and to contribute to an ongoing deliberation on enhancing the management of knowledge by civil societies in West Africa.
There were participants from Nigeria, The Gambia, Cote d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone and Ghana. Others also included international civil society organizations.
In a presentation on ‘The State Of Knowledge On Civil Society’, an Associate Professor of Sociology of the University of Kansas, US, Ebenezer Obadare, stated that CSOs which NGOs are included must be knowledgeable enough to be able to participate in policy making.
He said that CSOs must be attuned to the local and global drivers of knowledge production and policy making, which would be made possible when they realize that collation, distribution and management of knowledge will be eventually futile if not used to leverage political capital for development.
Prof. Obadare said that the CSOs must be aware of their ambiguous status as sites of knowledge production, bearers of specific forms of knowledge and as perennial targets of adversarial policy formulated by the state.
According to him, CSOs have become very visible in dissemination of ideas concerning gender, poverty, human trafficking, sexual rights and others, and which has consequently made them important in research to influence policy making.
Quoting the old saying: “Knowledge is power” he advised that it was important for the CSOs to take knowledge seriously since it would not be wiser for them to take part in policy making if they are not aware of the issues at stake
Prof. Obadare also touched on the need for competition among the various NGOs. This he said, was good for capacity building as each and every NGO will strive to make more research for knowledge to be ahead of other groups.
“There are numerous organizations and therefore there has to be competition so that it would be known, which of them is performing better than the others. It is always a good thing, when they keep in mind that there is a goal to achieve,”Prof. Obadare stressed.
He disclosed that for effective policy making involvement by the CSOs, there is the need for them learn from different traditional engagement in other parts of the world, by developing effective communication between themselves and policy makers.
Elaborating on the subject, the Regional Coordinator, Network Development of the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding, Ghana, Mr. AlimouDiallo said knowledge production in West Africa has been very few.
.This, he said, has left the CSOs with little than expected knowledge in influencing policy making for the benefits of those on whose behalves they are working.
“Looking at where we are now, and the impact we have so far made for the people we are working for, you would ask that what is wrong,” Mr. Diallo said.
According to him, CSOs are quick and good in criticising rather than contributing in policies making because they are unable to provide valuable options for the issues at stake.
He averred that CSOs must strengthen their partnership with academia for them to be able to acquire more knowledge on important issues.
Making a presentation on ‘collecting knowledge: assessing methods, contexts and capacities, Prof. Isaac Olawale Albert of Peace and Conflicts Studies, University of Ibadan, Nigeria, revealed that there are three typesof knowledge, which are: Explicit, Tacit and Hybrid knowledge, which involves the use of interviews and criminal investigation.
He continued that the methods of fetching the kind of knowledge needed include the use of extent literature and reports, observations, interviews and Ethnographic (local practice).
According to Prof. Olawale, CSOs are not making enough use of indigenous approach in search of knowledge because they arrogate too much knowledge to themselves, just as the government. This, he said, explains the increasingly disconnection between the people, the state and the CSOs.
He stated however that obstacles such as limited space, lack of capabilities and texture of citizenship have bedevilled the smooth sailing of the CSOs towards acquiring the needed knowledge.
The Professor of Peace and Conflicts Study therefore called for the need of training programme in policy-relevant research methodologies, and the hiring and training of local people to assist in the study of planning, implementation and evaluation of the study.
He also said there was the need for synergic relationship between academic and CSOs researchers, since the two have a lot to exchange with each other towards influencing state policy.