From policy to impact: The role of policy engagement
Enabling adolescents to achieve positive outcomes depends on our research influencing policy and programming. This is why stakeholder and policy engagement has been an essential part of everything we do and involves all staff and partners from early career researchers to directors and academic leads.
We are continuously consulting with governments, donors, agencies and most importantly adolescents to explore their needs and challenges, and the questions they wanted us to research.
Adolescents want services designed for them. Governments want robust evidence about what works, cost-effective interventions, and programme scale-up. Agencies want smarter interventions which target many outcomes. These needs have been built into our research and guide continued conversations with stakeholders.
Examples of our policy engagement work include:
1. Sexual violence prevention programme in three African countries – services to benefit 180,000 families and teens
“Sexual health, HIV and sexual violence are often taboo topics among parents and their teens. By integrating these topics into the evidence-based PLH Teens programme and applying collaborative social learning approaches, families learn how to discuss these topics – often for the first time.”
Anna Booij, Technical Programme Specialist, Clowns Without Borders, South Africa
The Accelerate Hub worked with USAID, PEPFAR (The President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) and regional NGO, Clowns Without Borders South Africa, to merge two adolescent interventions: a parenting programme to reduce violence and substance use and improve family budgeting, and a sexual violence prevention programme.
The programme was completed in 2019 and is currently being rolled out in Ethiopia, Botswana and South Sudan, reaching nearly 180,000 families and teens. There are plans to roll it out to five more PEPFAR countries. The Parenting for Lifelong Health Programme has also been included as one of only two PEPFAR-approved parenting programmes for use in Africa with 9-14 year olds, by the PEPFAR Country Operational Plan Guidance (p175).
2. Evidence to impact: parenting support in a conflict setting – services included in the National Work Plan for South Sudan
The SUPER study (Scale Up of Parenting Evaluation Research) is evaluating the impact of the Parenting for Lifelong Health (PLH) programmes in 28 countries. In South Sudan, an evaluation was completed by Accelerate Hub early career researchers (ECR) Roselinde Janowski and Sam Bojo with 205 families. It found that the programme has achieved reduced violence, emotional abuse, and physical violence; and enhanced positive parenting, parental monitoring and parent self-efficacy.
The team used this evidence to engage with the South Sudan Jubek State Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Development, which has now included the programme in its National Work Plan. The findings were also used to persuade the USAID 4Children Programme to continue funding this programme in Juba.
3. Stakeholder engagement: Zambia social protection study
Accelerate Hub ECR David Chipanta is investigating the impact of ‘social protection plus awareness-raising’ on the uptake of HIV services and other SDG outcomes in four districts of Luapula Province in Zambia. In February, he presented his base-line report to a meeting of more than 30 representatives from government, UN agencies, donors, adolescents and people living with HIV.
Stakeholders were surprised by the number of disabled people in the study (and therefore the local population), and the evidence that participants have less access to HIV services than other groups. Government officials pledged to include follow-ups and expansion of the study in their HIV-related proposal to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS and TB.
4. New partnership with the UNDP Gambia Accelerator Lab
Led by Dr Mona Ibrahim (Accelerate Hub UNDP secondee) and Omar Jagne (UNDP Accelerator Lab Lead), we are working with the Gambia Accelerator Lab to conduct rapid experiments of innovations with the potential to improve multiple SDG outcomes for adolescents. We have worked together on combining waste management with 3D printing methods and on using mobile technology and social media to improve access to jobs for unemployed youth. The two teams joined a workshop in New York in February 2020 to plan next steps, within the context of a wider GCRF-UNDP partnership.
5. Policy engagement on livelihoods research, Kenya
The ‘Aspirations’ trial is investigating the impact of unconditional cash transfers and an aspirational intervention on 8,000 households in western Kenya. In November, the Accelerate Hub team conducted a ‘policy engagement’ roadshow with stakeholders – to share early findings and find out what they wanted to know from the next stage of the research, which will focus on adolescents.
The team met with key national government departments including the Social Assistance Unit, Social Protection Secretariat, and the Siaya Ministry of Education, as well as agencies such as World Bank and UNICEF. Stakeholders were particularly interested in seeing randomised trial results for vulnerable sub-groups, such as women and girls, and wanted more evidence about the ‘cash plus interventions’ approach. The team will return to share findings and discuss their policy implications with stakeholders later in the year.