Hom context and intervention influenced the use of evidence
Overall, it appears that the environment was appropriate for changes in the use of evidence in the sanitation sector. The political milieu was more conducive to inclusion of all stakeholders in the national development process and Ghana was making strides in political democracy and social cohesion. To address the historically poor performance of sanitation at district level, UNICEF, development partners and a wide spectrum of national CSOs sought to promote greater social accountability between the state, CSOs, and other partners in improving the performance of the sanitation sector.
Moreover, sanitation was on the rise as an area of focus of increased pressure from civil society. This coincided with increasing use of the DLT to help standardise governments own data on district performance, combined with increasing citizen engagement in making sense of district data and using this to lobby for improved district performance in sanitation. The use of information and communication technology for disseminating the DLT data fit well with the wave of interconnectivity and the current, high use of social media in Ghana. This has made the data generated more user-friendly and easily accessible to all citizens.
Overall, the DLT partnership is working well. However, after four years of implementation, partners are now frustrated because broader resource allocation at national level is still not working well through MOFEP, MDAs and the District Assembly Common Fund (DACF). The partners are, therefore, advocating for the District Development Fund (DDF) to become part of a reward system to serve as motivation for the MMDAs to participate in the DLT. The partners are working with Parliament to query budget allocation and push for better resource allocation. Learning from the National Development Planning Commissions ‘carrot’ reward scheme with the certification of development plans for the receipt of government budget allocations, may be a good way to ensure wider resource allocation at the national level (Respondent 5 — Non-government).
Strengthening and coordinating the data system
Ghana has strong, capable national-level CSOs that have played a significant contribution in moving the sector forward. Their contributions on service delivery, however, are limited to the districts where they are funded to work, and therefore the ability to feed these results into a national picture is nonexistent.There has been a long-standing plea from civil society to the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources and its institutional predecessors to play this coordinating role so as to be able to better use the various sources of evidence that civil society is generating. The data ecosystem and governance infrastructure in Ghana needs to be strengthened and harmonised to support the production and access to timely, trusted/reliable, relevant data for policy uptake.
Suppliers of evidence need to better understand policy processes
As civil society players are still significant actors in the delivery of sanitation services, they are also the generators of the evidence stemming from this engagement (Ntow, 2019). As noted earlier, this evidence feeds into their monitoring systems, which report to a variety of funders. However, as it is not centralised, it is difficult to gain a broader national understanding of how each project is influencing the progress in systems of delivery.
The systematic practice of evidence use in policy making, analysis and evaluation within and across government and key social actors in Ghana needs to be strengthened. Non-state data producers (CSOs and academia) need to improve their understanding of how, when and which government institutions and other actors use evidence to inform policy design, implementation and monitoring so that they are better equipped to use these opportunities well for improved sanitation services. CONIWAS has been loudest in lobbying the state to address the coordination of data systems highlighted earlier. As a knowledge broker trusted by civil society and the state, CONIWAS could play a valuable role in mentoring civil society in where and when to influence decision making with the evidence they have generated from their service delivery work.
Ownership of the evidence is critical for use
Developing and building an inclusive culture is paramount in promoting evidence use at all levels of society’. Evidence tends to be used when government and key stakeholders are involved in the evidence process from the design stage. Uptake of evidence by government is facilitated when government sees the evidence as part of its developmental objectives in ensuring informed decision making. With reference to non-state actors, community and individual ownership of the evidence process is key in creating the environment for policy mechanisms to work for the desired policy outcomes where these require behaviour change by citizens.
Champions are key
The role of champions, such as a president, UNICEF, CONIWAS and CDD, when combined can be catalytic in moving a sector forward. This was illustrated in this case study through the President, declaring his support for a particular policy intervention during his presidential campaign through intense lobbying by CONIWAS. Once in power, he then followed through to create and support the mechanisms for it to happen until the desired policy outcomes are achieved. UNICEF’s funding of a Ghanaian adaptation of the IAA and DLT has built the tools to benchmark and expose poor performance in the sector at the district level. Government and other stakeholders act speedily when the evidence shames or embarrasses them.
Collaboration requires trust
Fortunately, the history of an inclusive culture in Ghana has helped build a historically close engagement between civil society as implementors of sanitation, and as such, also valuable knowledge brokers because of their
The contribution of civil society generated evidence 203 own role in evidence generation. This long-standing state dependency on civil society to carry the sector forward, thanks in large part to development partner funding, has been instrumental in creating the foundations for trust between the state and civil society, an uncommon trait in many other African countries.This also calls for improved and increased access to and use of basic indicators for social development.This makes it easier for all stakeholders and citizens to engage with the data as knowledge and use of data/evidence is empowering for all: citizens, government (at all levels) and CSOs. However there needs to be more trust between policy makers and other data producers, users, evaluators (CSOs/think tanks) to facilitate and amplify learning and innovation around the relevance and use of evidence in policy/decision making.