1.0 Programme Overview
PPI’s inaugural programme document sets a 10-year strategic direction for the Institute. The Institute programming aspires to bridge the gap between government and the citizens in matters of public policy by facilitating a structured mechanism for the citizens to engage with the State at the highest levels of decision-making. PPI’s programming is a shift away from the traditional practices where CSOs have mostly taken an adversarial approach in engaging with the state. The state and CSOs must see each other as partners with shared goals to improve public policy design and delivery. This will further strengthen citizen-state bargaining in the process of making public policies.
The primary problem being addressed by PPI in its inaugural 10 years phase is that ‘civil society and citizens are not participating in and contributing to public policy making, implementation and evaluation. This problem is because of the limited knowledge among civil society public policy actors about how government in Uganda works (regarding public policy making) and the opportunities for policy influence. This is worsened by the lack of opportunities for the policy designing departments of government to interact with citizens in the process of agenda setting, policy design and implementation.
PPI is employing its theory of change as its implementation logic model. The choice of the theory of change is to design programmes that are iterative in nature to allow learning and adaptation along way. Based on a set of assumptions and preconditions, PPI’s theory of change is that public policies that respond to the development needs of society shall be realised only if citizens and citizens’ groups are able to influence the design, delivery and evaluation of such policies.
2.0 Current Programme
The Civil Society Elections Engagement Platform (CEEP) is an initiative of the Public Policy Institute together with partners designed to reignite civil society interest in advocating for and contributing to a conducive electoral environment that upholds issue-based campaigns and free and fair electoral practices. This programme provides real time and evidence-based election analysis and statistics as a basis for public discussions through a nonpartisan forum.
The project objectives are to;
(i) Promote active citizens political participation in election processes.
(ii) Strengthen the civil society policy platform as a facilitator of collaborative engagements with various stakeholders on election delivery and management.
(iii) Promote #ArtSpeaks as a new approach to engaging in civic and voter education by both government and civil society actors. The ultimate goal is to secure the democratic rights of all Ugandans through the conduct of free and fair elections that enhance public awareness and confidence in the electoral process and complies with existing policy and legal context.
In 2018, PPI working alongside Margaret Trowell School of Industrial and Fine arts at Makerere University as well as with several young and emerging artists under a loose network code named #ArtSpeaks, pioneered the art and popular culture initiative to amplify the application of art and popular culture as a new form of promoting citizens’ voice and agency.
The #ArtSpeaks Network is a coalition of young and emerging industrial, fine and performing artists who have come together to use their talents to promote citizens voice and agency for social justice causes. The group with support from the Public Policy Institute has designed the #ArtSpeaks2020 initiative to strengthen the organisational and innovative capacities of young and emerging artists as well as position them to support mainstream civil society campaigns for electoral integrity.
#ArtSpeaks nurtures talents and imaginations of emerging artists, enhances their creative capacities and facilitates them to reach out to more individuals especially the youth with audio-visuals and other art products.
The last ten years have registered a tremendous increase in the number and vibrancy of Ugandan civil society actors working to influence public policies and political reform processes. Nongovernmental organisations have been the main face of these actors. Statistics from the National Bureau for NGOs indicates that the number of registered NGOs has grown from only 110 as of 1990 to more than 13,193 registered organisations in 2017.
However, despite the energetic engagement by youth CSOs in politics and development, recent research (e.g. by the Center for Development Alternatives) reveals that the impact of youth civil society actors in influencing public policy formulation and implementation remains low. This challenge is attributed to several underlying factors including;
a) Limited expressive advocacy capacity amongst civil society activists, underpinned by challenges in conducting policy research and analysis as well as failure to appropriately package citizen friendly policy alternatives.
b) Fractured interaction between civil society and mainstream political society. There are few deliberate and regular spaces that have been created to enable youth actors interact and engage political players on issues of policy.
c) Visible low levels of knowledge and skills in policy bargaining on the side of CSOs. The art of negotiation and policy leadership is glaringly low amongst the sector players and
d) Lack of representativeness on the side of civil society actors. There are few organisations that are socially rooted to connect the concerns of citizens at grassroots to the public policy spaces at the national level.
Uganda’s National Development Plan framework provides for a consultative process in defining national development priorities and ensuing public policies. However, civil society input in the process of developing the NDPs and specific sector plans remains weak. Despite existence of sector working groups for all the major sectors of government, there is limited awareness among most CSO actors on these spaces, which, on the other hand do not provide adequate space for multiple representations of diverse citizen perspectives. One such process that lacks the active participation of civil society is Parliament’s consideration of the Ministerial Policy Statements through which budget resources are allocated to national priorities as proposed by the Executive. Parliament has a limited time within which to receive, consider and approve the Ministerial Policy Statements amidst its other core functions. The critical voice of civil society actors has been conspicuously weak in this vital process despite their ability to organise themselves and with support, present evidence backed policy alternatives.
In addition, building linkages between government and civil society remains a costly gap within Uganda’s development ecosystem. The Public Policy Institute in its recent political economy analysis notes that ‘the relationship between civil society and the state continues to shrink without a recognisable structured mechanism for mutual engagement especially on matters of public policy. Civil society actors often complain about the failure of the state to enlist their views in policy making and implementation while the state on the other hand challenges civil society for failing to provide ideas and evidenced policy alternatives in appropriate fora. In this blame game where citizens are the ultimate losers, the state misses an opportunity of working with civil society to serve citizens while civil society misses the opportunity to shape the public policy agenda and implementation processes.
If Uganda is to meet the aspirations for inclusive growth as outlined in the Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as her own Vision2040 and the second National Development Plan (NDP III), civil society input into public policy processes through a structured mechanism, represents an opportunity for strengthening the representation of citizen voices in decision-making spaces.
The Problem to be Addressed
The overall problem which this programme seeks to respond to is limited influence by civil society actors on public policy formulation and implementation in Uganda. The programme considers the entire public policy chain including policy making, implementation, monitoring and termination. Ugandan civil society actors need to build critical competences in policy research, analysis, and debate on top of having a deep understanding of the evolving public policy challenges and aspirations. The underlying factors contributing to the main problem are;
(a) Capacity gaps on the side of civil society in public policy research, analysis and debate underlined by limited appreciation of the political economy of public policy making in Uganda
(b) Limited structured interaction between civil society and political society (state bureaucracy) in the framework of policy formulation, implementation, and evaluation.
(c) Limited awareness of the government policy making processes and available windows for influencing public policies amongst CSOs.
a) To build the capacity civil society actors to conduct public policy research, analysis, and debate.
b) To raise CSO awareness of the government policy making processes and available windows for influencing public policies amongst CSOs.
c) To support a structured dialogue process between civil society and political society (state bureaucracy) in the framework of policy formulation, implementation and evaluation.
a) The Public Policy Fellowship Programme for Civil Society Actors
This activity is designed to deliver a six-month practical public policy research, analysis, and advocacy training for civil society actors through a fellowship programme hosted at Makerere University. The fellowship is a skills-focused activity involving participants, selected through a competitive expression of interest mainly targeting leaders and policy advocates in NGOs, academic institutions, the corporate sector, media and political organisations. The Fellowship is a modular activity that involves;
• Module 1 is about the Public Policy Architecture in Uganda – the aim is to raise awareness about Uganda’s public policy architecture and entry points for civil society influence. The module responds to the following specific questions; (i) what is the legal basis of Uganda’s public policy process? (ii) How does the structure look like and what are the entry points for civil society inputs? (iii) Who are the actors and what is their level of influence over the process? And (iv) What are the political economy issues in Uganda’s public policy processes that CSOs need to be aware of?
• Module 2 is about Public Policy Analysis and aims to equip the participants with the capacity to undertake value for money policy analysis using the four parameters of (i) economy - is government in possession of the appropriate inputs to implement public policies? (ii) efficiency - is government implementing the selected policies at the most minimal cost without jeopardizing the quality? (iii) effectiveness - are public policy outputs realizing the expected change? and (iv) equity - how inclusive are the policy outcomes?
• Module 3 is about Public Policy Influence and aims to equip participants with the capacity to debate public policy alternatives, effectively bargain and engage in mainstream public policy debates.
Each module is delivered in a three-day training workshop convened at Makerere University. 3 PPI policy experts assisted by 2 technical staffs from the Cabinet Secretariat facilitate all the trainings.
Innovations and Value addition of this Initiative
This is the first initiative of its kind to strengthen the public policy capacity of civil society actors as well as establish policy spaces for civil society and government policy actors to engage with the intention of;
• Strengthening CSOs’ capacity to participate in public decision-making and influence public policy formulation and implementation;
• Enlisting the views of citizens regarding government policy planning and performance in a structured manner and using evidence; and
• Establishing a structured approach for promoting citizen-based policy influence.