INCLUDE Platform

A short history of INCLUDE and its conferences

Since its establishment in June 2012, INCLUDE, the Knowledge Platform on Inclusive Development Policies, held 11 meetings:

History

In October 2012, INCLUDE agreed on its overarching theme: making development in Africa more inclusive. While most African countries have registered high growth in the last decade, this does not yet translate sufficiently in poverty reduction. Productive employment is the key to ensure that vulnerable and poor groups, especially young people and women, benefit from growth. This requires policies for economic transformation and inclusive employment policies. However, such inclusive policies can only be realized if they are supported by coalitions of strategic actors across the state and society that can overcome resistance to change among the ruling political and commercial elites.

At its first meeting, INCLUDE identified three subthemes for further examination:

  1. Promoting Productive Employment in Sub-Saharan Africa
  2. Strategic Actors for Inclusive Development
  3. Social Inclusion and Sustainable Growth

Concept notes were prepared on Promoting Productive Employment (by Adam Szirmai et al.) and on Strategic Actors for Inclusive Development (by Jean Bossuyt et al.), while the theme of Social Inclusion for Inclusive Development was first explored in a scoping conference on how measures to include poor and vulnerable groups can contribute to growth and be linked to growth processes.

At its meeting of 4-5 April 2013 the Platform discussed the concept notes on Productive Employment and Strategic Actors for Inclusive Development and decided to elaborate these themes for tendering by NWO-WOTRO Science for Global Development. Two calls were published in September 2013 by NWO-WOTRO.

The Platform also approved the organizational set-up, a document that describes the organizational aspects of the Platform and decided to outsource the Platform Secretariat.

The third meeting of the Platform on 1 November 2013 was preceded by the Scoping Conference on Social Inclusion and Sustainable Growth (30-31 October 2013). About 70 African, Dutch and international experts examined how social protection programs and initiatives can realize poverty reduction and thereby contribute to sustainable growth in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Following the Scoping Conference, the Platform considered a variety of possible research themes. The decision was taken to focus on the added value of social protection over alternative policies with the same objective: to both reduce poverty of vulnerable groups and increase growth. The call for proposals on this theme was published in June 2014.

The Platform discussed expanding its knowledge network and activities for sharing knowledge on the theme of inclusive development in Africa. Platform members emphasized that there is already a wealth of knowledge, the challenge is to make that knowledge ‘work’ for policy-makers and practitioners. Ideas for such activities were discussed during the fourth meeting on 15 May 2014. This meeting was preceded by a Policy Research Seminar on “Achieving inclusive development in Africa: Politics, processes and political settlement”, co-hosted by the Developmental Regimes Africa project led by the Overseas Development Institute with the University of Leiden and the Knowledge Delivery pillar and Capacity Development Division of the UN Economic Commission for Africa. To stimulate a forward-looking debate, about 90 representatives of Africa’s major policy knowledge networks, international agencies based in Africa, distinguished researchers and policy thinkers, and influential business leaders and government advisers in the region were brought together and exchanged evidence and ideas on the economic and political conditions for achieving economic transformation and inclusive development in Africa and assessed better research-policy linkages on transformation and inclusion can be achieved, with particular reference to productive employment and social protection.

In June 2014, NWO-WOTRO selected ten research groups to carry out research on the themes of Productive Employment and Strategic Actors for Inclusive Development. They address pressing research questions and bring their results to the attention of decision-makers in the public, non-profit and private sectors.

On 20-21 October 2014, the Platform organized a two-day event at the International Institute of Social Studies in The Hague. The first day was a workshop with Platform members, representatives from the research groups that have been granted funding by NWO-WOTRO, representatives of Africa’s major policy knowledge networks, Dutch academic and policy stakeholders, and invited guests. During the workshop the research groups pitched their projects and discussed their research uptake activities. Also, INCLUDE Steering Group member Isa Baud officially launched INCLUDE’s website.

After the workshop, INCLUDE’s Platform members met for their fifth meeting to discuss the future knowledge activities of INCLUDE. The discussions concluded that a demand-driven approach to policy influence is preferable to a supply-driven approach and that the research groups should share ideas to improve synergy, link their evidence to existing policies and gaps, and situate their research within a wider sectoral context. The Platform has an important role to play in facilitating knowledge processes between different research groups and countries. To achieve this, the Platform should link research groups to stakeholders, build research and knowledge management capacity of research groups, facilitate debate and exchange of information, and address emerging challenges.

The sixth meeting of INCLUDE took place from 11–12 May 2015 in Nairobi. It started with a working conference on ‘Building Policy-Knowledge Communities for Inclusive Development in Africa’, bringing together about 70 policy stakeholders, including platform members, researchers, policymakers, and practitioners from international development organizations and NGOs from Africa and abroad. During the meeting for Platform members, an important step was made in the establishment of two policy-knowledge communities, one on productive employment in horticultural value chains and one women’s entrepreneurship. The aim of these policy-knowledge communities is to leverage existing networks and collaborations to support policy relevant research, package it appropriately, and ensure that it reaches policy makers. At the meeting, it was furthermore emphasized that the platform should work on the basis of a demand-driven approach and be responsive to the questions that policymakers have identified. On 12 May 2015, the research groups took part in a training on ‘Pitching for Policy Impact’.

On 15 October 2015, more than 80 participants from a wide range of countries gathered in Leiden for the working conference on ‘What works to promote employment prospects for women and youth: Policy-knowledge interactions for inclusive development in Africa’. The conference showcased existing knowledge, which was further enriched with new reports and insights. The conference also strengthened exchange between Dutch and African scientists, policy-makers and practitioners on employment prospects for women and youth in Africa – a theme that is at the heart of INCLUDE’s knowledge agenda.

From 23 to 25 May 2016, INCLUDE held its bi-annual working conference in Lusaka, Zambia. On 23 May, INCLUDE co-hosted a widely appreciated panel discussion on ‘Jobs for women and young people – the transformative potential of agribusiness’ at the Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank (AfDB).
On 24 and 25 May, INCLUDE & NWO-WOTRO research groups discussed their preliminary research findings with Platform members. It became clear that researchers and Platform members share a passion for making research on inclusive development relevant to policymakers, but their views on what kind of findings and policy messages are relevant differ. Policy stakeholders (including platform members) are particularly interested in how research results can provide evidence on the best approach to follow in policy making and implementation. A number of researchers, however, warned not to focus too narrowly on economic growth and successful cases in research on inclusive development, but to follow a more holistic approach. To enhance research uptake, policy stakeholders and platform members suggested that evidence should highlight both the positive and negative impacts of interventions and the policy implications. Policy messages need to indicate how interventions should be tailored to the local context to bring about improvement. Policy options are preferred over recommendations.

INCLUDE organized a round table discussion on productive employment on 15 December 2016 at the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs in The Hague. International researchers, Platform members, representatives from NGOs, businesses and policy stakeholders gathered to discuss: what sectors can best create productive employment? And how can entrepreneurs create more jobs? On 14 and 16 December, meetings were held with Platform members.

On 30 May 2017, INCLUDE and the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs organized the conference ‘Boosting youth employment in Africa – What works and why?’ in The Hague. In her opening speech, Lilianne Ploumen, Dutch Minister for International Trade and Development Cooperation, stressed that 18 million jobs will need to be created annually until 2035 to absorb all young entrants to the labour market. The speakers and participants exchanged ideas on what works to boost youth employment in Africa. The conference was captured in reports and video interviews, and in preparation for the conference a synthesis report of state of the art literature on youth employment was prepared by the Secretariat. On 31 May, a Platform meeting was organized.


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