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International symposium: The politics of poverty research and pro-poor policy making: Learning from the practice of policy dialogue

Venue: 5th floor Bioscience Building, University of the Western Cape
Date: 19 Nov 2012 to 20 Nov 2012
Time: 9:00 to 17:30


This international symposium looks at the politics of policy-oriented poverty research and pro-poor policymaking. The symposium aims to explore the research and policymaking nexus by asking: what are the processes by which research agendas are defined, which may shape the interpretation of findings; what are the kinds of poverty research that is being conducted; how is this knowledge used in the development and application of policies addressing poverty? Going beyond simple understandings of evidence-based policymaking, participants will be asked to problematise concepts such as research ‘uptake’ and policy ‘impact’ and share insights of practice from the ‘real world’ of policy engagement. 

A  provisional programme for the event is now available (last updated on 15 November).

A detailed event announcement with full content information is also available.



Content scope and focus

The symposium will take as its focus the research and policy terrain of the core development challenges: alleviating poverty and inequality, which in the case of South Africa at least will relate directly to issues of inclusive growth, job creation and employment.

The symposium aims to go beyond assumptions of dominant understandings about ‘evidence informed policymaking’, by inviting participants to share their experiences and lessons of how research is used (and misused) in the real world of policymaking – and how policy concerns in turn can direct (and misdirect) the agendas of pro-poor social science research.

A recent PLAAS Working Paper titled 'Making Sense of Evidence - Notes on the Discursive Politics of Research and Pro-Poor Policy Making' will be presented by its author, PLAAS Director Andries du Toit, in an introductory session of the symposium. Some recent reviews on the paper can be found on Enrique Mendizabal's blog and on Kirsty Newman's blog Kirstyevidence.

Limited spaces are still available for those interested to attend the symposium. To express interest to attend, please contact the organisers.

Some key speakers at the symposium include:

Neva Makgetla, Deputy Director General: Policy at the Economic Development Department

After completing her Academic qualifications, Neva Makgetla went on to lecture at different universities both in Africa and abroad. She lectured at the New School for Social Research, New York and the University of Zambia. She was also a Visiting Lecturer and Visiting Professor at acclaimed universities, such as the University of Massachusetts Boston and University of Redlands, California. Makgetla then went on to serve as the coordinator for the Economics Commission and helped draft the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP). Makgetla spent the majority of her time between 1995 and beyond 2008, serving the South African government, in many different roles and responsibilities. Not excluding as Senior Researcher for the National Labour and Economic Development Institution. Deputy Director General at the DPSA and Lead Economist at the Development Bank of Southern Africa. 

Margy Waller, Senior Fellow at Topos Partnership
Previously Waller was Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution, with a joint appointment in the Economic Studies and Metropolitan Policy programs. Prior to Brookings, she was Senior Advisor on domestic policy in the Clinton-Gore White House. Before joining the Administration, Margy was Senior Fellow for Social Policy and Director of the Working Families Project at the Progressive Policy Institute. She also served as Director of Public Policy at United Way of America, and Director of Policy Development at Public/Private Ventures in Philadelphia, and a congressional fellow in the office of U.S. Representative Eric Fingerhut (D-OH). Margy is a board member at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College and Pones, Inc, and a member of the national leadership council for Opportunity Nation. She is a frequent keynote speaker at conferences and workshops, presenting research findings for communicating to build broad support for policy goals. She's appeared in and on numerous media outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, Philadelphia Daily News, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, CNN, and Fox News.
Fletcher Tembo, Research Fellow within ODI's Research and Development programme (RAPID)
Tembo has been working in the RAPID Group since January 2007. He manages the Mwananchi Project, working with partners in seven African countries to strengthen citizen engagement in policy processes. His book, Participation, Negotiation and Poverty, emphasised the importance of understanding the power and politics of negotiations between local communities and civil society organisations, with non-governmental organisations and state actors, in order to design effective ‘citizen empowerment’ projects. His publication ‘Poverty Reduction: are the strategies working?’ was widely used in reviews of poverty reduction strategies in the context of seeking to rebalance accountabilities from international donors to a country’s citizens in aid delivery mechanisms. Fletcher has a PhD in International and Rural development from the University of Reading. Before joining RAPID, Fletcher was a Senior Economic Justice Policy Adviser for World Vision UK and managed Community Area Development Programmes in Malawi.
For a full list of participants to the symposium, please contact the organisers.

The Programme to Support Pro-poor Policy Development (PPSPD) is a partnership between the Presidency of South Africa and the European Union (EU). The PSPPD aims to promote evidence-based policy and public policy interventions which address poverty and inequality and contribute towards achieving the economic and social development goals of South Africa. The purpose of the Programme is to develop a cadre of researchers and policy-makers with a deeper understanding of household dynamics and poverty to enable more informed evidence-based policy-making. The PSPPD is a complementary programme to the National Income Dynamics Study (NIDS), a South African panel study. The NIDS dataset is being used to further build the evidence-base in policy relevant research. The key stakeholders of the PSPPD are policy-makers and researchers from government, as well as social researchers and academics from higher education institutions.

The Economic Development Department (EDD) aims to strengthen government capacity to transform the economy, through a pro-employment growth path that addresses the structural constraints to absorbing large numbers of people into the economy and creation of decent work.

The Department of Science and Technology (DST) seeks to to develop, coordinate and manage a national system of innovation that will bring about maximum human capital, sustainable economic growth and improved quality of life. DST seeks to create the appropriate policy and institutional implementation instruments to deliver research products and services for the economy. It also aims to develop and implement national programmes to produce knowledge, human capital and the associated infrastructure, equipment and public research services to sustain the National System of Innovation.

The Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) is a policy research organization focusing on issues relating to poverty, marginalized livelihoods, rural development and agrarian reform in Southern Africa. PLAAS produces Use-Inspired Basic Research and, although it is based at the University of the Western Cape, it relies heavily on project funding. Since 2007 the Atlantic Philanthropies has supported PLAAS through a project entitled Connecting Research to Policy, aimed directly at exploring innovative approaches and learning lessons of experience in the dissemination of policy-relevant research. The described symposium is a culmination of this project aimed at sharing the lessons that PLAAS has learnt on a wider forum and facilitating a discussion around emerging issues.

The Southern Africa Trust is an independent non-profit agency that supports deeper and wider regional engagement to overcome poverty in southern Africa.


The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) conducts large-scale, policy-relevant, social-scientific projects for public-sector users, non-governmental organisations and international development agencies, in partnership with researchers globally, but specifically in Africa. As the national social science council of South Africa, the HSRC wishes to serve as a knowledge hub to bridge the gap between research, policy and action; thus increasing the impact of research. This is achieved through collaboration with key constituencies, including government, other research organisations, multinational agencies, universities, non-government organisations, and donor and development organisations.

Mendizabal Ltd Mendizabal Ltd aims to undertake the best possible research, develop the most original and innovative ideas and provide the most honest and useful advice to think tanks, policy research networks and their main stakeholders. The organisation will work with other when necessary through very clear and transparent relationships. The main platform for sharing their work is