Evidence-based advocacy: How civil society generates and uses evidence for influencing policy

December 29, 2020


Experiences from Watershed empowering citizens programme

Civil society can empower citizens to become more assertive members of society and dialogue with state and market actors to challenge exclusion in water and sanitation. In doing so, it can push decision-makers to change behaviours, attitudes and beliefs that are at the root of exclusion and hold the banner of social justice.

The approaches used in Watershed and described in this document show that the first step towards improved accountability is made by stronger CSO engagement in governance processes, the second step is that citizens (voters) are empowered to raise their voices to get the attention of the legislators for deeper institutional changes. An important lesson learned is that engagement, thus dialogue rather than dissent seems to be a more effective influencing strategy in the sector. This is particularly true in those countries where civic space and participation is supported by policies and legislation.

This paper brings together experiences from different CSOs and NGOs, including 13 case studies and lessons learned from 6 countries over the past 5 years on ‘how civil society can generate and use evidence for influencing policy and practice’.

It is focused on evidence-based advocacy. For the purpose of this paper, ‘evidence’ corresponds to a selected argument (or the issue that is being advocated for), which in turn determines the nature and type of data that will be needed to support the argument. There is a ‘wide range of activities that are conducted to influence decision-makers at different levels with the overall claim of combatting the structural causes of poverty and injustice’ (Elbers and Kamstra, 2019) or as ‘the process of undertaking active interventions with the explicit goal of influencing government policy’ (Onyx et al., 2010).

Author: Elynn Walter, Rajashi Mukherjee, Evita Rozenberg

Location: Global

Language: English

Type: Working/ technical paper