Evidence-based policymaking is at the heart of ensuring accountability of resources and inclusiveness of development policies. As a Member of Parliament (MP), one draws from competing sources of information, including from one’s constituents, and most often, political correctness overrides research evidence. In fact, the lack of use of research evidence in policymaking in the legislative, oversight and budgeting roles of Parliamentarians represents a glaring gap, which is why I chose to address it by becoming an evidence-use champion in Kenya.
I helped form and launch the Parliamentary Caucus on Evidence–Informed Decision-Making (PC-EIDM) with the approval of the Kenya National Assembly Speaker. The main goal of PC-EIDM is to enhance the interest of Parliamentarians in utilizing evidence in making policy decisions. The Caucus, whose membership cuts across both Houses of Parliament (Senate and the National Assembly), is in the process of operationalizing a Five-Year-Strategy developed in December 2015.
In line with this strategy, the Caucus has been holding sensitization workshops on evidence use for MPs and plans to leverage future induction meetings for MPs at the beginning of each Parliament. The Caucus is also advocating for our Parliament’s leadership to address the barriers for evidence use in Parliament by building staff capacity and putting in place infrastructure to support access to research and information. In addition, the Caucus is engaging Parliamentarians and facilitating evidence-informed policy discussions in the public domain by holding open policy “Cafes.”
We have already made some notable progress. Parliament has begun building capacity of its Research unit by employing additional research analysts to cater to the increased numbers of MPs and their demand for evidence use. We have also improved the research analysts’ skills in research and data use, including in accessing, appraising, synthesizing and packaging data for MPs. Parliament is also in the process of improving the supportive infrastructure for research work, including enhancing internet connectivity to access online journals and databases.
The work of the Caucus as a driving force to increased use of evidence has not been without challenges. Some of the challenges faced by the Caucus include:
i.) Membership – attracting and retaining Members of Parliament in the Caucus, when Members have numerous other demands on their time and attention, has been a challenge and has affected some activities of the Caucus.
ii.) Funds – raising funds to implement some evidence-focused activities is another challenge, because the Caucus is not funded by the Parliamentary Service Commission, but instead relies on donors and partners.