Skip to main content

Closing the learning loop to feed national decision making

Published on: 27/07/2011

Any learning process must be effective. In Ghana, the learning process in the water and sanitation sector is extensive and devolved, as it should be. But there is an important gap. A structured mechanism is needed to channel lessons from the communities, learning alliances, and other learning fora to decision makers, for example, the annual inter-ministerial roundtable at the Ghana Water Forum.

How then, can policymakers plan and fund the sector if critical information of what works and what doesn’t is only getting to them in bits and pieces? 

Thus is my conclusion after having been involved in national and district level learning sharing platforms in the Ghana WASH sector from October 2010 to July 2011, as part of training and internship under the PSO/IRC Youth Zone young professional exchange programme.

Stef Smits in the IRC book, ‘Learning Alliances’, describes an ideal feedback mechanism between the different levels at which learning happens.The lessons from the community feed to the district, national level, and global learning fora and in turn the solutions and new innovations flow back to the communities. Eugene Larbi, Managing Director of Training Research Networking for Development, an NGO in Ghana, believes this feedback mechanism would require extra funds to manage. He also sees it as a challenge given water and sanitation learning approaches are project-based at regional and district levels. Abu Wumbei, National Coordinator of the Resource Network Ghana (RCN), maintains that establishing a feedback mechanism should be a priority in Ghana, if the water and sanitation sector is to influence national decision-making processes effectively.

In Ghana learning alliances are structured at national level - national level learning alliance platform improving knowledge sharing and sector dialogue and the district learning alliances facilitated by the tripartite partnership project (TPP). TPP is engaging the communities, Non-governmental Organizations, Community Based Organizations, media consultants, and the Municipal and district Assemblies in a participatory planning, review of progress and decision making on interventions, choice of technologies fostering a strong community ownership and involvement. 

What it takes

For the government of Ghana to respond to the community lessons of the water and sanitation practice, there are a few proposed elements that are crucial to sustainably manage the feedback mechanism:

  • It is vital for RCN to understand the decision-making process in Ghana, to better target the audience with the right key messages. 
  • The feedback mechanism has to be structured as a core activity for the RCN. To sustain the feedback mechanism at district and regional levels, it should be part of the government reporting structures.
  • The Resource Centre in collaboration with the line ministries have to present the recommendations on the national agenda platform.
  • The RCN should follow up on the implementation and impacts of the recommendations that are adapted.

Follow up

The RCN Ghana is considering incorporating the feedback mechanism as described above in its work on sector learning. The recommendations collected from all the learning fora will be synthesized and packaged as policy briefs for the decision makers.  Most importantly, the mechanism should be an integral part of the entire learning process in the water and sanitation sector.

The recommendations will only influence the national priorities if the decision-making culture is evidence based and not political agenda driven.

The ideal learning sector in Ghana 2015 is one with a closed learning loop. Lessons learnt from communities and districts are documented and packaged for decision makers. The sector strategies and priority programming are informed by the learning process.

Micheal Jonga, young professional from Netwas Uganda, in Youth Zone exchange programme with RCN Ghana, 25 July 2011.