Who uses governance data, in what ways and to what end?

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Marc-André Boisvert
Catherine Easton

We just released the provisional data for our 2019 Africa Integrity Indicators. With seven years of project data, covering 13 governance themes across all 54 African countries, Global Integrity has produced a wealth of information. Our robust methodology, built on data collection methods and quality control processes that can be applied consistently across countries despite their unique challenges, allows for comparisons across countries and over time.

We believe that governance data can be useful. Timely country-level assessments can shed light on the strengths and weaknesses of national governance systems. Cross-country comparisons can provide insights into variations between different national systems. And a multi-year study can track whether and how efforts are progressing towards achieving a particular public policy goal.

Over the years, we have analyzed our data and experimented with different ways of disseminating findings, including by crafting reports (here and here), producing infographics, and publishing blog posts in both English and French. We have discussed our findings with government decision-makers from countries such as Angola, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Mauritania, Sierra Leone and Togo. Our indicators feed into the Mo Ibrahim Foundation’s Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) and the World Bank’s Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI). Through the WGI, the data is also used by the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) to determine country eligibility for MCC compacts.

However, it is clear that data – in this case primarily about governance arrangements – in and of itself will not provide solutions to the challenges country-level actors face. This begs the question: How can data about governance help local actors drive governance reform at country level? And how might data best inform the efforts of domestic policy makers?

Luckily, thanks to several studies that have recently explored the gap between research and action[1], we know a few things about what makes governance data useable and useful.

Governance data is more likely to be used if it:

  • Aligns with country policy priorities;
  • Accounts for contextual and country-specific realities;
  • Provides actionable insights;
  • Is credible in terms of transparency and robustness of the methodology employed.

Data is often treated like a message in a bottle, floating at sea. It only has an impact if it washes up on shore, if someone reads the message, and then chooses to take action. Given the number of bottles at sea, this appears to be a huge waste of effort. Instead of continuing to simply launch more and more bottles in the hope that someone will find them, we want to learn more about the potential partners who are working to tackle governance challenges in Africa. What sorts of challenges are they grappling with, how might data help them, and – eventually – how might we collect and present information that fits the user’s needs?

Ensuring the usefulness of the data we produce is a moving target, and so we revisit this goal frequently to keep ourselves on track. (See some of our previous thinking here, here and here).

So, given all this, we want to explore “who uses data, in what ways, and to what end,” so that we can get smarter about how we produce data.

That means, we want to:

  1. Start with the problem and prioritize insights and policy priorities of country-level actors.
  2. Learn more about country-specific realities, and how they should inform our data collection. Is there an additional question of importance that we’re not asking? Should we rephrase a question to capture the situation more clearly?
  3. Fill existing information voids, to help identify ways to win the support of existing players, provide opportunities for new players, and thereby build an effective coalition for reform.
  4. Ensure our data is credible, by discussing how our methodology is understood by actors and how can it be improved.

To do this, we need your help! Over the next few months, we’ve set aside some time to learn from you about the challenges you face, and to explore how you are driving your reform efforts. Our goal is to uncover synergies between our efforts, and to better understand how we might help you to influence reforms, and to help bridge the gap between the goals you are pursuing and the availability of data to help you achieve those goals.

Would you like to work with us?

If you work on driving governance reforms in Africa, we would love to hear from you!

All you need to do is shoot us an email at aii@globalintegrity.org, and share what priorities you are working to address and the major challenges you’re facing.

From there, we hope to start a meaningful conversation, listening to your efforts, and learning about your successes and challenges to better understand:

  • Whether you think you could be even more effective in pursuing your strategy, if you had additional information or data
  • And – If that was the case – what kind of data, methodologies and formats you think might help (whether that be the existing Africa Integrity Indicators, or potentially new tailored indicators, or something new altogether)Let us be a sounding board for you! We are keen to learn how we might help help you address the data challenges in your work.

[1] For more information on the gap between research and action, and ensuring that data impacts decision-making, see: R4D’s report on Governance data use, Development Gateway’s Policy Brief on their Results Data Initiative, and AidData’s reports (such as Avoiding Data Graveyards, and Decoding Data Use)
Africa Integrity Indicators (AII) Team

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