About us

­The Policy > Action Network (P>AN) is hosted by the Research Use and Impact Assessment Unit (RIA) of the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and was established with funding from the South African Department of Science and Technology (DST).

­The Policy > Action Network aims to:

•    disseminate policy-relevant information,
•    act as an information resource, and
•    build an active network to support the advancement of policy expertise and greater participation in policy development processes. 

A collection of information on the ‘how to’ of policy development, policy-relevant information under different themes and general and current developments in the field of social policymaking is currently being developed.

P>AN supports the policy community by sourcing information and monitoring current developments. and aims to contribute to rigour in policy making and greater participation in policy processes. To facilitate debate, the resource collections on this site represent a range of viewpoints and so are not necessarily endorsed by the P>AN secretariat.

The Programme to Support Pro-Poor Policy Development (PSPPD), a partnership between the Presidency and the European Union is providing support during the current phase; and is aimed at strengthening the network and building capacity. A key product here is the Evidence into Action Newsletter, which was launched in November 2010 and will be published every second month.

Background

The HSRC actively encourages a policy environment where evidence-based policy making is seen as key to making better decisions and achieve better outcomes. An important aspect of this is the promotion of dialogue with the policy community and an emphasis on wider dissemination and uptake of research.

While much research is generated, it does not always reach policymakers in a format which would have value to them and which assists in policymaking. 

To support evidence based policymaking, the P>AN website aims to stimulate dialogue and support a collaborative network with activists, policymakers, researchers and all public servants who have an interest in the policy process.

Following a period of research and consultation, the first phase of the project was implemented, and entailed building content on the site and an extensive database of contacts. The portal was launched in August 2009 and after a period of approximately 18 months during which steady progress was recorded, the second phase of the project is now being initiated.

During the current phase of its development, P>AN’s focus is on building expertise around the portal, an active network of contributors and developing its role as a tool for getting research evidence into policy. The aim is to grow interest in evidence-based policy development in South Africa, by providing information resources and participating in the development of a community of practice.

Principles and beliefs

It is generally accepted that while a great deal of research is generated it is not necessarily reaching policymakers in the form that they would most appreciate.

Sharing experiences will contribute to better policymaking, by stimulating dialogue and debate, amongst activists, policymakers and researchers.

In general researchers and policymakers appreciate a range of viewpoints.

There is a need for research or information to be appropriately packaged including case studies, fact sheets and policy briefs.

Positioning

PAN is hosted by the Science Communication Unit of the Research Use and Impact Assessment Unit (RIA). RIA consolidates the dissemination and knowledge management activities of the HSRC into a single unit. It plays a strategic role in supporting researchers in maximising the impact of their research by engaging in activities such as knowledge exchange, synthesis and application. RIA comprises the following Units: Science Communication, Impact Assessment, Corporate Communication and the HSRC Press.

Science Communication  recognises that there is no ‘magic bullet’ in ensuring that research is used in the policy-making process and an effort must be made to understand the policy making context as well as ensure that research evidence flows into the hands of those who need it. PAN provides a platform to encourage both the dissemination of research evidence but also the building of a community of practice that facilitates dialogue and learning.

There is a need to connect people and share information and also to reflect the policy priorities of government‘s 12 outcomes, in order to ensure that implementation is supported and assessed. PAN thus contributes to the HSRC’s positioning in a broad societal role and aims to become a premier dissemination platform, which provides a unique service and functions as a gateway to publications from similar organizations.

All the activities of the network are the product of wider consultation, with those who share the common goal of quality participative processes and evidence based policy development.

Activities

Information
Information from the Human Sciences Research Council as well as other research councils, universities and think tanks is indexed and available on the PAN website.

As getting research into policy and action is a focus area of the site, a collection of documents on the policy development process from formulation to implementation is being developed on an ongoing basis.

Policy formulation and analysis methodologies are further illustrated through policy-relevant information collections on the development state, education, gender, health, poverty, social and economic policy, social innovation and social protection.

Networking
The approach to building a participatory network will be through a process of broad consultation which contributes to a meaningful dialogue.

Support is provided for the building of a community of practice in your area of interest. If you would like to use this service contact Valerie Fichardt on pan@hsrc.ac.za.

Capacity building
Various policy workshops and capacity building programmes are planned, with capacity building underpinning the approach to network building.

Focus areas
•    Information source on policy making process (the how to), evidence-based policymaking and policy-relevant information across thematic areas.
•    Build an interactive network around the portal.
•    Build a community of practice.

Become involved

The P>AN is in the process of setting up a Reference Group which will provide broad support in the creation of a network around the portal.

It is also proposed that a network of subject and policy experts will be approached to provide input, advice on content, manage subject areas of the site and make recommendations on an ongoing basis to. If you would like to participate in this process please submit recommendations to us on pan@hsrc.ac.za.

Submissions of policy relevant information are of particular interest, particularly in the form of case studies relating to policy experiences in South Africa. This will contribute to the development of a local body of knowledge around rigorous policy development processes.