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‘What knowledge brokers do’ #1: Looking into Africa’s COVID-19 response

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Kim van Wijk is communications & innovation broker for INCLUDE knowledge platform and The Broker
Knowledge broker for the INCLUDE knowledge platform and expert in the field of inclusive development and human wellbeing.

Twelve country case studies were initiated to look into the ‘Equity in COVID-19’s mitigation and policy responses in Africa’ as part of the INCLUDE knowledge platform’s research agenda. Their goal: aiming to systematically reconstruct, document and analyse the COVID-19 measures, policy responses and interventions implemented by national governments and non-state actors in twelve African countries. July 2020 marked the launch of the ‘Equity in COVID-19’ research programme.

The challenge was up to knowledge broker Anika Altaf to coordinate the research programme’s design, strategy and researcher’s involvement. The INCLUDE knowledge platform has been one of The Broker’s most long-standing projects to date, as The Broker has been among the platform’s Secretariat consortium partners since 2014. In this brief article, Anika shares some insights on how she approached this work from her role as a knowledge broker within the INCLUDE knowledge platform, leading to the now finalized country case studies within the COVID-19 research programme.

In this series ‘What knowledge brokers do‘, we share perspectives from our knowledge brokers on various knowledge brokering trajectories in our projects. With this, we aim to give you an inside look into our work and answer the question “What is it that you do?”

 

In what way did the proposed research programme strike your interest as a knowledge broker?

Looking back, it was the timely relevance – looking into COVID-19’s pandemic responses and to what extent these are inclusive – as well as the aim for the research to be conducted mostly by African representatives, that struck Anika’s interest. With her background in researching how the extreme poor and marginalized people are included in poverty-alleviation initiatives, she was keen to look into the extent to which national COVID-19 responses are inclusive and how this can be improved in the future.

 

“The goal of this programme was for it to not just be about Africa, but to be performed by Africans, for Africans”

What was the role of knowledge brokering in this trajectory, how would you describe this ‘knowledge brokering’ exercise?

The most important knowledge brokering aspect of this project was to be aware, and have a critical eye towards, making sure that the insights collected on the equity implications of the pandemic’s responses are coming from an African perspective. Safeguarding this, Anika used her ability as a knowledge broker to take a step back to assess what was truly needed for the research programme’s trajectory to be fully representative of the African viewpoint. “Following the spirit of INCLUDE platform, the goal of this programme was for it to not just be about Africa, but to be performed by Africans, for Africans.”  The selection process for the researchers of the country case studies presented the first key step to achieve this: “It was vital to be critical during the selection process of the programme to safeguard the representation of the African voice and perspective.” Anika and the INCLUDE team made sure that a variety of researchers  – either just starting or well-established researchers in the field  –  were selected for, and made sure they picked an African representative lead researcher and research institute to conduct the synthesis reporting trajectory (currently performed by Dzodzi Tsikata from the University of Ghana).

But selecting the research teams is not where ‘brokering’ ends; the INCLUDE team had to make sure that the African voice would get the place it truly deserved. What this meant to Anika was that the insights gathered and shared perspectives would not be tampered with or altered. This meant that, besides a standard research reviewing process, no editing was done or changes were made regarding the output and insights gathered by the African partners. As such, Anika explains, “the insights from the individual country case studies truly reflect the African perspective and take on the COVID-19 responses that are in place.”

How did you aim to add value to this project as a knowledge broker?

“Knowledge brokers are connectors, we make sure that stakeholders and actors work together. (..) I aimed to generate a sense of being a united group of researchers all throughout the project. And with success!” Throughout the programme, a high energy group of people would come together to share their progress. The key to this is making sure knowledge exchange was facilitated from start to end during the programme. Anika explains: “It is about connecting to the researchers one-on-one, as well as facilitating knowledge sharing among the researchers on a regular basis”.

 

“Our hopes are that the level of participation of vulnerable and marginalized groups will increase, and that the (local) governments are incentivized to consult these groups and to have their voice weigh into the future policy response formulations”

How does this line up with the mission of The Broker for a more sustainable and inclusive world?

Besides making sure that the programme is carried out by Africans, for Africa and its population, the project focused on gaining insights on the extent to which vulnerable people and marginalized groups were taken into account in the countries’ COVID-19 responses. “With the insights from this research, we hope to be able to make a contribution to having marginalized groups be part of, and taken into account in, future policy responses in crisis situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Our hopes are that the level of participation of vulnerable and marginalized groups will increase, and that the (local) governments are incentivized to consult these groups and to have their voice weigh into the future policy response formulations.” With this, knowledge broker Anika Altaf and the ‘Equity in COVID-19’ team aim for the resulting synthesis study and policy recommendations derived from this research programme to make a contribution to more inclusive and sustainable local policymaking.

The first couple of country case study reports (Mali, Nigeria, Ghana and Rwanda) are out now. These, as well as the additional information on the programme and the forthcoming reports, can be found on the Equity in COVID-19 programme page.

Join the livestream of the INCLUDE conference session on Equity in COVID-19 on 8 June from 15:00-16:30 (CET)

 
Authors: Kim van Wijk, Anika Altaf

About the authors

Kim van Wijk is communications & innovation broker for INCLUDE knowledge platform and The Broker

Knowledge broker for the INCLUDE knowledge platform and expert in the field of inclusive development and human wellbeing.

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