The Problem Driven Policy Analysis framework (PDPAF) that Youth4Policy program(Y4P) employs in policy research is a unique one. Ideally, unlike the usual approaches that do ‘the analysis of policies’, the PDPAF emphasises ‘analysis for policy’. It is on this framework that Y4P fellows base to develop their policy research questions. The framework implies that whereas it is important to evaluate existing policies to know what went well and what went wrong, the most fundamental is what this entire process contributes towards policy debates and development. PDPAF proposes an approach that identifies a public problem first, then, through a scientific inquiry, establish its nature, extent, what can be done, what has been done and the existing gaps.
Being the basis of every policy research under the Youth4Policy Program, it is fundamental that all stakeholders fully understand the framework. Policy Development Seminars provide a platform for discussions that facilitate such and other purposes. The first seminar, which took place on Saturday, May 26th was one of the three planned seminars for the first program cohort. The broader objective of this seminar was for fellows to present their policy research proposals to their colleagues, mentors, and focal point-persons, with a goal of getting feedback on how they could better their proposals.
At the Innovation Village Ntinda, Kampala, it was an informative and fun-filled day, which left the fellows excited and ready to refine their research questions to make them more specific, focused and feasible.
The morning part of the program was an input session by Michael Mugisha and Yusuf Kiranda, Centre for Development Alternatives Co-directors. Michael’s input was on Evidence-Based Policy Research Methodology. This session aimed at introducing to fellows the different research methodologies that they might need to employ in their research. Although different methodologies were discussed, Michael’s emphasis to fellows was to consider the feasibility of any methods they decide to use. This is mainly because the program time frame is only 6 months, and ideally, only 4 months were remaining at the time of the seminar. This therefore automatically calls for the need to carefully think about an appropriate methodology. The most outstanding advice to the fellows during this session was the need to consider using secondary data sources. Challenges associated with collecting primary/ field data were discussed and these include sampling biases, difficulties with getting representative samples (A sample that one can justifiably use to base his/her policy recommendations because it is representative enough). Additionally, like mentioned earlier, four months is quite a short time to collect primary dada, analyse, clean and run data tables. Financial and other resource constraints were also highlighted.
Using several examples, Michael and Yusuf made the session an interactive and participatory one. Yusuf’s further emphasis on using secondary data sources called the fellows into understanding the meaning of this data. This demystified the widespread practice of treating some primary data as secondary data. For instance, he explained that the commonly used Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) data is not necessarily secondary but primary data, in other words, they are only data abstracts that one can interpret and make policy recommendations accordingly. Using the example of the 2017 KAS/CDA reality check on Employment, Education and Entrepreneurship (The 3Es), he emphasised the need for breadth and depth while studying these data abstracts to tease out what has been left out. With the reality check example, the available data was mainly general figures on employment and unemployment in Uganda, but through carefully studying this data, the researchers were able to identify a missing link; -underemployment- which is often ignored in statistics.
As earlier mentioned, to emphasise the vital role of the PDPAF, Yusuf encouraged all the fellows to read and understand the framework, as it is the backdrop that informs all the policy research proposals. One of the most important inputs was the clarity made regarding the difference between a public problem and other problems. A public problem, as it was agreed by all participants is one that is identified by the public, affects a significant proportion of the public and for which government intervention is required. A call was made to fellows to separate what they individually see as a problem and what the public sees as so.
To enable fellows’ increased understanding of the PDPAF, and the ‘analysis for policy’ and not just ‘analysis of policy’, emphasis was put on the need to start with the existing public problem, consider what can be done about it, what has already been done, what gaps are remaining, then look at intervention options while considering their relevancy and feasibility.
The input session generally covered what makes a good policy research proposal and why it is important to carefully think about what research methodology to use, while keeping in mind the overall output of this policy research as a policy brief, not an academic paper. ‘’Evidence is judged based on the methodology used. Ideally, a weak methodology leads to weak evidence while a consistent methodology means consistent and reliable evidence’’ Michael advised.
The afternoon session was for fellows to present their policy research proposals for which each got personalised feedback from their colleagues, the focal-point persons, and the mentors present. Fellows were divided into 2 groups based on focal persons and topics. Juliane Bing moderated one group while Phionah Kanyorobe moderated the other.
A list of fellows and their research topics is as below; 1) Judith Okuonzia: Land consolidation in Uganda 2) Zahara Namanda: Sexual harassment among girls in primary and secondary schools in Uganda; 3) Allan Kayongo: Digital dividends for Uganda’s development; 4) Winnie Watera: Low enrolment of female students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics(STEM); 5) Annet Mbabazi: Disciplinary and administrative action in the public sector; 6) Benjamin Rukwengye: Uganda’s education system and human capital development; 7) Policy on youth engagement in agriculture; 8) Hilda Namakula: Young graduates leaving Uganda to work in the United Arab Emirates as casual laborers; 9) Transitional justice response to violations of social, economic and cultural rights in northern Uganda; 10) Malcom Mpamizo: Access to judicial remedy with a focus on land and lobour rights in the extractive industry; 11) Brian Sserunjogi: Youth Migration and Labour exportation in Uganda; 12) Cinderella Anena: The relative peace and youth transformation and development in Northern Uganda.
The above list gives an overview of the research topics. However, specific research questions were being worked on at the time of writing this report. As can be observed, the topics are dynamic and touch a wide range of sectors. Feedback was given based on PDPAF- our unique framework and was guided by the feedback guidelines that were developed by CDA and approved by KAS. The guidelines were divided into four sections, namely, the research topic and question, feasibility, objectives and effectiveness.
Although each fellow was given personalised feedback, a look into the general feedback was paramount, as most of it was crosscutting. From both groups, the most shared challenges were concerning the research question definition. Some of the research questions presented by fellows were either too ambitious or not fully focused. Additionally, research methodologies proposed by some fellows were not appropriate, considering the time frame, the resources as well as keeping in mind that the end product is a policy brief.
In general, some of the solutions proposed included the need to carefully identify public problems for their research. Clear identification of a public problem informs one’s research question. And as Malcom, one of the fellows put it; if one has a well-defined and specific research question, then the rest will fall in place smoothly. Fellows were encouraged to spend more time defining their research question rather than quickly starting on the research itself. However, fellows were asked to resist identifying research problems basing on their interests and passion, if their research is to contribute meaningfully to the public policy debate.
Mathias Kamp, KAS Country Director, in his remarks condemned the use of ‘best practices’ throughout the research and as a way of making policy recommendations. He rather encouraged fellows to find ways of ‘turning best practice into common practice’. He also reminded them to keep context in mind.
Fellows were also encouraged not to be biased by their own pre-conceived ideas and conclusions, but to have flexible minds and let the scientific inquiry lead them to the conclusions on which they will base to draw policy recommendations. Outcomes, general observations and feedback from both groups were shared in the third session. Further networking was done during the evening cocktail, with which the seminar closed.
This seminar was generally a success, with eleven of the twelve fellows attending and each fellow getting feedback on their research topic. Results from evaluation of the seminar will be used to plan and improve future seminars.