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Knowing impact? Reflections on policy processes in Africa [initiated by CODESRIA]
Marieke van Winden (conference organiser) (African Studies Centre Leiden)
Ibrahim Oanda (CODESRIA)
H: Knowledge and impact


Notions of policy impact in research today are closely linked to a desire to influence the policy process in order to shape the future of Africa. But do African researchers truly understand the policy process? In CODESRIA, we have grappled with what policy impact means and whether researchers are adequately equipped to understand the policy process in order to work towards achieving impact. CODESRIA holds that basic research is the critical entry point to policy making; that knowledge produced with sound conceptual and methodological tools and with an eye to relevance carries enormous potential for policy uptake and impact. Thus, our framework does not treat the policy question as a settled debate in which intellectual work is treated as a supplicant to particular policy demands. On the contrary, and without questioning the value of policy relevance itself, this panel will open up for debate the assumption that academic work must have policy implication. It argues that the policy process is itself a subject of intense debate and policy actors unleash complicated decisions that have even more contradictory effects on policy making and implementation. Thinking through the policy process helps sharpen our understanding of the complicated process of policy uptake. This panel will allow for a reflection that carefully thinks through the numerous and complex dimensions of policy and policy process and to allow the issue of policy uptake and relevance to be properly situated in the work of many research organizations that struggle with demands for policy impact.