Evidence-informed policy and practice: the role and potential of civil society
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This article is based on a case study research on evidence use in Africa, drawing from four cases to focus on the role of civil society in evidence use. The countries included Benin, South Africa, Kenya and Ghana and sectors included agriculture, violence against women and children, sanitation and wildlife. The objective of this article is to discuss emerging lessons from the experiences of engaging civil society in evidence-informed policy-making and practice in different countries and sectors.This research examined processes enabling and hindering evidence use using a demand (policy) rather than supply (research) perspective. It was guided by an analytical framework using a behaviour change approach to understand the evidence journey. It used a case study approach applying qualitative methods.The cases show that civil society organisations (CSOs) can make a valuable contribution towards evidence-informed policy and practice through a variety of different roles. They also demonstrate the implications of participation levels and relationship types between government and CSOs as well as within CSOs. The cases equally demonstrate the significance of evidence-informed engagement processes. Deliberate efforts need to be made to maximise the value and potential of CSOs in evidence-based policy and practice. This includes establishing relationships and trust through dialogue, supported by strong facilitation, knowledge brokering and well-defined guidelines and incentives. This requires ensuring that the right capabilities are in place for the different actors to engage effectively.