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On May 13, 2015, the Partnership for African Social and Governance Research (PASGR) and INCLUDE organised a policy-knowledge community forum on social protection in Nairobi. The forum brought together 33 policy makers, practitioners, the media, and researchers on social protection in Kenya with staff of PASGR and INCLUDE to discuss how researches that aim to influence social protection programmes in the country could be enhanced.
Through experiences shared by researchers and policy actors, and reactions from participants, the forum examined the challenges of social protection research for policy uptake; identified important knowledge needs of policy actors to inform their work on social protection policy and programme design; the processes that researchers need to be aware of and appreciate if their research evidence is to get policy traction in the country; and some important stakeholders that need to be involved in attempts to build social protection policy-research community.
Based on the experiences shared, it became clear that there are a number of myths surrounding low uptake of policy research. While researchers may not have involved key stakeholders in the design and implementation of their studies, there was an appreciation that policy making is not a linear process. It requires continuous efforts to engage policy actors and persuade them to buy in to research evidence. Researchers need to work with fellow researchers who work in the offices of policy makers and practitioners in order to get access to the right information and people who make decisions regarding policy and programme design and implementation. There will be frustrations along the way because there are many interest groups in policy and programme design. So involvement of key stakeholders may not necessarily lead to uptake because politics is a key factor in decision making. Researchers would have to understand when and how study findings could be packaged for dissemination to different audiences.
The forum concluded that research is integral to policy so researchers must be persistent and consistent in providing timely and accurate evidence on social protection to policy actors. The media must be seen as integral actors in setting the agenda and effectively disseminating research evidence to policy actors. Researchers and research organisations should not shy away from the media but must be careful about the type of media to use for specific research evidence and time.
The following are some of the issues that policy actors requested to have knowledge on as far as social protection in Kenya is concerned.
• Clarification and harmonization of terminologies used in social protection research and practice: social assistance; social protection; social insurance; social security, social transformation; social progression; social policy; social protection floor; etc.
• Credible data on the number of poor people deserving social protection based on specific criteria used to define the poor in the country; the current coverage at national and county level; etc. Disaggregated data will be useful
• Information on social protection studies that have been carried out in the country and their key findings;
• The role of devolution in the expansion and sustainability of social protection in Kenya.
• Financing social protection programme at national and country level;
• Strategies for including informal sector employees and their associations in national social security and social protection programmes respectively.
• Impact of cash transfer programmes at the community level;
• Cost effective and sustainable ways of investing in social protection.
It was suggested that research organisations must devote time and resources to building a coalition of researchers, policy makers, policy practitioners and users throughout the research process if the myth surrounding uptake of research evidence for policy is to be broken. PASGR, INCLUDE, Oxfam, the Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Services, Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, the Centre for Parliamentary Studies and Training; and many of the organisations1 that were present at the forum agreed to collaborate with the national and the county governments to generate quality and relevant research evidence to inform social protection programmes in the country.
Suggesting the way forward, PASGR agreed to facilitate and/or convene a network of researchers, policy makers, and policy practitioners to undertake a series of activities with the sole aim of influencing policies and programmes on social protection in the country. PASGR will convene the network community and facilitate the mobilization and sharing of existing and new knowledge on social protection with policy actors in the country. Based on a number of suggestions made during the forum, PASGR proposed to develop a programme of activities that will be shared later with members of the community for discussions.
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