The role of civil society cannot be overlooked. Different waves of developmental changes have created stark changes in the demand and supply levers of the political economy and in this sense, civil society holds a crucial role in the promotion of good governance through the rule of law and human development. Ensuring the sustainability and credibility of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) is a challenge in an immensely policy-influenced world., where the relationship that civil society has to the state, is endogenous to successful results and evidence-based outputs, which positively affect wider systemic outcomes.
In the last decade, many African countries have experienced an increasing demand for use of M&E systems, influenced in part by the growth in the NGO sector, or requirements from the international donor community. In many African countries, CSOs play a crucial role in checking governments and advocating for increased accountability to citizens. Part of this strategy has been
improving the use of evidence from evaluations at the national and sub-national levels, as well as other strategies like participatory budgeting, public expenditure tracking, monitoring of public service delivery, investigative journalism, research, public commissions and citizen advisory boards. However, the role of CSOs with respect to supporting governments vary from country to country. In Uganda, it seems that CSO are welcomed in the service delivery space, but less able to contribute to an advocacy or governance agenda; while in Benin CSOs can collaborate with government in a broader range of areas.
There is considerable scope for collaboration in M&E between African governments and civil society organisations but these opportunities are not optimally taken advantage of; often as a result of mutual suspicion. In positive complementary relationships, civil society organisations can provide support to government M&E systems. Examples include building evaluation capacity of government staff; documenting processes in parliament (eg. SA’s Parliamentary Monitoring Group) and monitoring budgets. The role of CSOs can be expanded to include their expertise and insights of service delivery reality to government evaluations at various stages; as well as collaborating in the design and execution of evaluations, participating in steering committees and in dissemination and utilisation of results.
The level of involvement of civil society organisations in government M&E systems in the three selected countries (Benin, Uganda, and South Africa) where Twende Mbele is operational is neither well understood nor well documented. The three countries have identified the role of civil society in strengthening the evaluative function of the governments as a priority.
As a start to strengthening this cooperation, Twende has teamed up with CLEAR-AA to conduct a diagnostic of the state of CSO/Government collaboration in each of the Twende partner countries. During November and December, Twende and CLEAR-AA have gone on a voyage to conduct three data collection workshops in Benin, Uganda and South Africa. Each workshop was aimed at exploring current and potential strategies for bolstering the government and CSO collaboration.
While results are very preliminary at this stage, it would seem that no country currently has a formal mechanism for connecting CSOs to government in terms of evaluation or research evidence. While there were some examples of good practice, these were ad hoc, and described as being based largely on personal relationships, rather than a solid institutional foundation.
In Uganda civil society is represented on the committee which selects evaluations. In South Africa some specialist NGOs undertake evaluations or research for government (e.g. Joint Education Trust, SAIDE, Health Systems Trust), and they often participate in stakeholder workshops where evaluation draft reports are discussed. in Benin CS0s are represented on the Benin Evaluation Board and are also part of all evaluation steering committees. They are also involved in policy formulation according to the country national evaluation policy.
In South Africa, there are stronger mechanisms for citizens-based monitoring, and in Uganda, there are community feedback mechanisms (Barazas) but nothing at the national level for joint work on evaluation or institutional mechanism for adding value (other than a steering committee, which does not always function as intended).
Workshop data is being augmented by face to face interviews in each country, and an online quantitative survey. The full findings will be presented and validated during in-country workshops in March 2018.