Our Journey Towards Contextualizing A Relevant Evidence Portal: The Role of Networking and Collaborations
At Effective Basic Services - eBASE Africa, promoting the use of research evidence by policy-makers and practitioners has always been a passion. We have been able to do this with policies and development projects in basic services using innovative approaches to promote uptake. Generating, synthesizing, and translating evidence can be expensive. To reduce costs, research evidence pulled from the evidence ecosystem has been our best bet as we find an already existing research evidence base to tap from. Personally, I am inspired by Howard White when he says “Evidence is the best buy in development. Funding research on what works is the best investment we can ever make”.
In 2016 before the armed conflict began in Cameroon, eBASE Africa was developing audits and feedback projects with teachers using freely-available research evidence from the Campbell Collaboration and the Education Endowment Foundation’s (EEF) Teaching and Learning toolkit. We used an approach adapted from the Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) clinical fellowship audits and feedback programme.
In 2018, the eBASE Africa team played a key role at EVIDENCE 2018 in Pretoria, the biennial event organized and hosted by the Africa Evidence Network (AEN). The conference provided an opportunity for networking with the EEF team and collaboration between eBASE Africa and the EEF team began. After our interactions with EEF at EVIDENCE 2018, they were interested in the work we were already doing and stepped in. They accepted to support us in developing a contextualized toolkit for Africa which could initially be relevant in our setting and to the greater Lake Tchad Basin.
We got into discussions and a first visit was made to Cameroon by two members of the EEF team in July 2019. It was such a rich experience as they got to know about our educational system and culture. Visits were made to the ministries in charge of education in Cameroon and the officials welcomed the idea of contextualizing the already existing toolkit. At the end of a five-day working visit, they went back to the United Kingdom feeling very fulfilled leaving us with hopes of a fruitful partnership!
In November 2019, three members of the eBASE team were invited for a return visit to further foster the relationship with their newest partner! It was such a great trip as we got to meet other partners in education and make new connections. We came back with a lot of rich knowledge on evidence which helped us a lot in our work. Both visits had created an opportunity to support evidence-based development in education, increased eBASE’s national visibility, increased trust from policy-makers and formed a rich cultural exchange.
After all the visits and talks, an agreement was finally signed with EEF to support the contextualization process which would give birth to a toolkit relevant to the African context known as the eBASE Teaching and Learning Toolkit – to be available for free in both French and English. Together with EEF we also went into a joint Centre of Excellence for Development Impact and Learning (CEDIL) Programme call for proposals with EEF for a funding opportunity to use meta-analysis to explore transferability of education mid-range theories to Middle Africa. This proposal was successful and the CEDIL funding will support increasing stakeholders’ engagement, further contextualization of the eBASE Teaching and Learning toolkit, and translation of the toolkit into French. This was such a welcome idea as our policy-makers in education were already very eager to have a tool to help in the teaching and learning process. We also reached out to policy-makers in Nigeria, Tchad, and Niger and they were excited to work with us to realize this dream. Presently, we are active in Cameroon, Niger, Tchad, and Nigeria working towards the contextualization of the toolkit, despite the challenges and limitations posed by COVID-19.
This story highlights the very important and useful leadership role that the AEN plays in creating opportunities for organizations to realize their dreams of the Africa we want. It shows how networking can be useful in making evidence-informed decision-making a reality. And it also demonstrates how collaborations can play a key role in accessing funding for research and development. The funding eBASE Africa has received out of these collaborations will boost Africa’s advancement toward the Sustainable Development Goals in Middle Africa and ensure a reduction in the attainment gap in education.