By Mark Chataway
Recently, Paul Dillon and I had the opportunity to work with our South African colleagues on a project that tackled a serious issue—that of teen pregnancies in Africa. Read a wonderful article from The Independent highlighting the graveness of this problem here: When Teen Pregnancy is a Death Sentence.
We were approached by a private, charitable foundation based in the U.S. that had invested a significant amount of money and time in conducting research in a developing African country. The research focused on the impact of teenage pregnancies, particularly in disadvantaged communities, and its impact on the likelihood of young women finishing school.
The foundation approached Hyderus to assist them in reaching out to personnel in relevant government departments with the latest research findings and key insights. The goal was to affect policy changes so that they would help keep children in school, keep them healthy and ensure they become important contributors to the nation’s economy.
Our objective was to create awareness of the organisation’s ongoing research, generate interest and suggest ways that the research could prove useful in new policy formulation. We helped the researchers to meet identified stakeholders, including high-level officials from the departments of basic and higher education as well as officials from the department of social development, and shared verbal preliminary findings.
Through this mapping exercise we were able to assess how interested the stakeholders were in the research, the best way to phrase the research questions, and also how best to present this information to policymakers going forward. Additionally, we asked the stakeholders how we could support the process of transferring the research findings and knowledge into policy, should the findings be accepted and deemed appropriate.
Through the insights gained from the mapping exercise, we were able to create a comprehensive presentation that tailored the key research findings in such a way as to appeal most to the heads of the respective government departments being presented to. The research and presentation was very well received with the government departments suggesting that the research was indeed useful in policy formulation and that it added new information to the field of their work.
Research such as this is critical in raising awareness of this issue so that policymakers and foundations can contribute much needed funding to help these young women. Indeed, thanks to research such as the one done by this organisation and many others, policymakers and foundations are acting fast to tackle this critical issue. So much so, that this summer the British government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation held a summit on family planning in London. Their aim is to provide 120 million of the world’s poorest women with access to contraception over the next eight years, at an estimated cost of almost £2.6bn (read the summary of commitments here).