The Policy > Action Network (P>AN) is hosted by the Research Use and Impact Assessment Unit (RIA) at the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and is supported by the Department of Science and Technology.

P>AN supports the policy community by sourcing information on social policy with the aim of contributing to rigour in policy making and greater participation in policy processes. This site contains a range of resources including case studies, policy briefs, research reports, events info and ‘how-to’ info on getting research into policy, and getting policy into action.

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Newsletter: From Evidence to Action

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policy research in South Africa

 Tim Hart, Senior Research Manager, Economic Performance and Development, HSRC  will present from 13h00 to 14h30 on 7 November 2013 and this seminar can be attended in Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban via VCR.

Policy Research typically focuses on improving policy that is inadequate, inefficient, or ineffective. Undoubtedly, some policies are poorly conceptualised and poorly implemented. But are all policies poorly conceptualised?

Some people benefit from policy making while others do not seem to be able to benefit from the same policies. If all policies were inherently good and well meaning would more people benefit? Is good policy implementable?

The presentation addresses these questions using examples from national statistics, local surveys and an ethnographic case study. Policy implementation is far from a simple technocratic process and is heavily influenced by the actors involved. The evidence suggests that policy research must adopt a more sociological and anthropological focus to understand the influences of the multiple actors along the policy implementation pathway. It is crucial to understand how policy is implemented in practice. The appropriate research question is not whether policy has succeeded or failed, but rather in what ways and why it might have succeeded or failed?

Kindly RSVP by 3 November 2013

Cape Town: Contact Jean Witten, Tel (021) 4668004, Fax (021) 461 0299

Durban: Contact Ridhwaan Khan, Tel (031) 242 5400, cell: 083 788 2786 or

Pretoria : Contact Arlene Grossberg, Tel: (012) 302 2811, e-mail:

This Department of Science and Technology Government Cluster Policy Workshop (GCPW) addressed the critical issues of spatial inequalities in South Africa, public perceptions towards inequalities and preferences for redistribution, as well as the relationship between the two. These issues are situated within the broader debates about inequalities as determinants of various social problems including poor health outcomes, social unrest and crime. The GCPW was informed by a research project which is being undertaken collaboratively between researchers at the University of Oxford and the HSRC. By investigating whether citizens' attitudes to inequality in South Africa are associated with their experience of inequality at the local level, the study attempts to provide new insights into inequality in South Africa to support evidence-based policy making. The project was motivated by three pressing needs:

  • first, the need to better understand the unequal spatial configuration of poverty and deprivation at small area level as a measure of people's lived experience of inequality;
  • second, the need to better understand public attitudes towards inequality and towards policy options for redress; and,
  • third, the need to explore whether people's attitudes are influenced by their lived experience of inequality

This record has been updated with additional presentations. In addition to further presentations are available on request as they are too large to load onto the website: The relationship between spatial inequality and attitudes to inequality in South Africa (David McLennan and Michael Noble) and Inclusion, access and the urban advantage (Philip Harrison). (email

Early engagement with end-users of research is, increasingly, seen as essential if findings are to be applied after a study concludes.

This example from Pakistan gives insight into the why and how of such an approach. A collaborative study – by a team from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), the Pakistan National TB Control Programme and the Research Alliance for Advocacy and Development in Pakistan – involved stakeholders from the start of the research.

The study assessed whether patients with pulmonary multi-drug resistant tuberculosis have better treatment outcomes if they are treated using quality-assured, internationally procured (GLC) drugs as compared to locally procured drugs. Early stakeholder engagement and collaboration helped to ensure buy-in and uptake, from policy level (by the National Tuberculosis Programme) to hospital level (staff, clinicians and data managers).

In this issue of From Evidence to Action we focus on PAN: Children, a knowledge portal launched just over a year ago in a partnership between UNICEF and the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC). Our Feature traces the ideas and inspiration behind the portal, where we are after a year online and our plans to expand PAN: Children’s facilities and reach. As a learning network we have consulted widely with experts and other platforms and our Case Study highlights an expert retreat and exchange we held in May 2013 where we refined our strategic plans and grappled with issues around policy influencing and key institutional arrangements which we need to put in place. We shine our Spotlight On PAN: Children’s topical guides, the rationale behind them and how they can be updated by online users. Under Toolkits and guidelines we have sourced some useful documents on children’s participation, one of the priority areas for PAN: Children. Our Resources Section collates information about events, opportunities and related documents.

Children as advocates

This Handbook is a practical tool for UNICEF and partners in promoting and strengthening child participation in global advocacy. It is based on many years of experiences and lessons learnt. It incorporates minimum standards, protocols and guidelines that UNICEF has used to guide this process.

In the late 1990s the Department of Education restricted the re-enrolment of over-aged learners and the number of times underperforming learners could repeat a grade. This was intended to reduce the number of learners in the school system, but may have contributed to a sudden increase in measured unemployment. Of the 2.3 million increase in the number of unemployed between 1997 and 2003, up to 900 000 may be due to unintended effects of these policies which brought hidden (youth) unemployment into the open.

The reasons given for writing this paper are:

  • To better reflect on what has worked and what has not in terms of the key activities of the programme: research production, capacity development and networking and partnerships.
  • To produce valuable evidence that can guide strategic design of future work by the diverse partners of the programme.
  • To share this knowledge with organisations/persons working in this field.

Highlights that the most valuable lessons contained in these pages have derived from interaction with others. This paper is a product of continuous collective thinking: it is not what we have learned just by ourselves but what we have reflected upon, digested, discussed and discovered by talking with other colleagues and experts, asking for their feedback, encouraging them to question and challenge us, asking about what could be different or improved in the future.

In this issue of From Evidence to Action we focus on research synthesis as a tool for supporting evidence informed policymaking, some organisations involved in this kind of work, and how they go about it. Our Feature focuses on systematic reviews and we interview Ruth Stewart who leads the evidence-informed policy team at the Centre for Anthropological Research at the University of Johannesburg as well as contributing to research at the Evidence for Policy and Practice Information and Co-ordinating Centre (EPPI-Centre) in London. The EPPI-Centre is part of the Social Science Research Unit at the Institute of Education in the University of London. In our Case Study we profile the Governance and Social Development Resource Centre which is based at the University of Birmingham and look at the research synthesis facilities that this successful knowledge intermediary has built up. Our spotlight is on two partnering South African institutions, the Centre for Evidence-Based Health Care (CEBHC) at Stellenbosch University and the South African Cochrane Centre and their involvement in systematic reviews in the area of public health. Our Resources Section collates information about related events, opportunities and other useful documents.

A GSDRC Helpdesk Report which answers the following questions: Provide examples of African regional professional associations considered effective. What explains their success and what role does leadership play?

This report provides examples of professional and academic associations that work across three or more African countries, and that have some evidence of success. Types of impact are varied, but are usually identified as strong membership, attendance at national or international meetings, awareness of the organisation in the wider sphere, dissemination and uptake of publications, and connection or influence on policy and policymakers. The report particularly tries to draw out any impacts on governance in the wider public sphere, but most of the indicators of success focus on inputs or outputs rather than outcomes, and do not identify broader social or policy change.

Summaries as a communication tool

This review examines examples of summary production processes from a number of contexts and organisations, including: the Governance and Social Development Resource Centre (GSDRC ), Eldis, US Department of Agriculture, World Health Organisation and Inside Knowledge Magazine, as well as KM4Dev (summaries of list discussions), Outcome Mapping Learning Community (OMLC) , among others.