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A case of embracing evidence

Cassandre Pignon 21 December 2022

A pre-school center around Morocco ©Raja Noureddine/IDinsight

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Dear friend,

I often tell our team: evidence doesn’t have an ideology. When we started work in West and North Africa in 2018, we foresaw both abundant opportunities and significant challenges. If successful, we would support partners, including those in government, to ground their policies and decision-making in evidence, not partisan or ideological divides. But, even early on, we saw that the barriers were notable: we are working in a market – of NGOs, governments, and social enterprises – where actors may not have the right solutions for the problems they face.

Yet, our two-fold growth in West and North Africa (WNA) this year—in both portfolio and team size—illustrates a steady increase in demand for evidence. It shows the wheels of change turning towards an appetite for new approaches. It represents thought partnerships that help leaders analyze data, generate insights, and offer recommendations. And it reflects receptiveness amongst partners to set up systems that will improve their impact.

We have seen this demand in our partners who are embracing evidence. They are taking the right steps to develop their capacity and monitoring and evaluation systems that will benefit them now and for years to come. One example is our partnership with the Foundation for the Promotion of Preschool Education in Morocco (FMPS), which runs 18 000 preschools in both rural communities and those just outside urban centers. They are working with the Ministry of Education with the support of the National Initiative for Human Development (Ministry of Interior) to address education inequities for underprivileged children – a policy priority. This year, we supported the FMPS in a flexible learning partnership to strengthen their data collection, analysis and visualization, so they can efficiently track children’s development at this critical age and identify those in need of additional support. 

We have seen a demand for evidence support to enact larger policy reform. One example is our partnership with the Edo State Ministry of Education in Nigeria, where our government counterpart aims to transform education across the country. This initiative lays the foundation for a modern, digitised, and evidence-driven education system that equips its students with the skills and values required in a changing global economy. Among other things, our teams are using a variety of analytic tools to identify gaps and support capacity building for evidence-informed decision-making. 

We have seen innovative non-profits with deep contextual knowledge and grounding commit to using evidence – even at the earliest stages of their work. We are working with the Senegalese NGO  Associates in Research and Education for Development (ARED), who came to us looking for analytic support to ensure their bilingual remedial education program – inspired by the Teaching at the Right Level approach – is working effectively at the pilot stage ahead of scaling up to 4,000 children in 200 classes. We were thrilled to fund this through our Catalytic Fund to support our ARED partners at a critical point in their expansion.

As we have grown, we have seen first-hand the opportunity for francophone practitioners to use applied evidence. To that end, we will be investing our own financial resources in 2023 to support two higher education institutions based in the region to embed evidence techniques into their curricula. For organizations and individuals looking to incorporate evidence into their work, we will share open-source toolkits, guides, and a boot camp – all in French – to equip those who want to bolster their technical skills and knowledge.

The current momentum in our field of expertise is a testament to the changes that are possible, it fills us with hope and optimism for the year ahead. Thank you for being on this journey with us in 2022 and in the year to come.