Through online communities, virtual discussions and webinars, policymakers and practitioners from African countries and Brazil are building and exchanging knowledge on social protection and gender equality.
By Analice Martins, Communications Assistant
Brasilia, 6 February, 2017 - Travel costs, a busy schedule and a tight budget are no longer excuses not to attend an important meeting. Thanks to innovative online platforms, policymakers and practitioners from the Global South are able to share experiences on social protection programmes, contributing to the overarching goal of poverty eradication. Online knowledge-sharing activities, such as webinars, online communities and virtual meetings, have been instrumental to the work of the International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth (IPC-IG) in areas of South-South cooperation and social protection, to mobilise African and Brazilian stakeholders and to produce knowledge within the scope of the project “Brazil & Africa: fighting poverty and empowering women via South-South Cooperation”, financed by the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID). The Centre is responsible for the implementation of the Outcome 1 and 2 of the aforementioned project.
Since the early 2000s, both unconditional and conditional cash transfer programmes have become key elements of social safety nets throughout Africa. Many African countries have been encouraged by the positive results achieved in Brazil with social protection and food and nutrition security policies and programmes aimed at reducing poverty and inequality have a positive. Several African cash transfer programmes were inspired by the Brazilian experience; in particular, the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) programme in Ghana, the National Social Protection Policy in Kenya, and the Cash Transfer programme in Cape Verde received support from Brazilian institutions during their design phase. Lessons learned and experience-sharing initiatives on the design and implementation of social protection policies and gender issues are the focus of the online interactions.
Challenges and Opportunities - Producing and sharing knowledge among countries that have such diverse cultures, and political scenarios is no easy feat. In this light, virtual meetings and online spaces have been an important tool for facilitating knowledge-sharing initiatives.
“Policymakers have very busy schedules, but virtual meetings are promising since attendees can join from anywhere: their offices, hotel rooms or even from airports, as long as they have access to an internet connection”, said Livia Nogueira, IPC-IG’s Senior Project Officer responsible for the project.
“We thought that rather than waiting for an opportunity to meet face-to-face, we should invite them to join our webinars, online forums and virtual meetings through the socialprotection.org online platform ”
However, virtual spaces are not a ‘one size fits all’ solution. Slow internet access in both Brazil and African countries is a challenge. As an example of an initiative to overcome this bottleneck, the IPC-IG has established partnerships with country offices of many international organisations, allowing participants to use their facilities and Internet access. It is during face-to-face events that it is possible to truly identify the demands of policymakers and practitioners.
“Even though we were working with national governments, sometimes they do not have enough connectivity to attend the meetings. When you offer someone an opportunity, if the person cannot see the point of taking part, they will not engage. Therefore, you have to focus on their necessities”, Livia said.
“We present the virtual platform based on their needs. Instead of coming up with a full menu, we have to understand what they really want.”
Tangible results - The results have gone beyond the virtual environment and have been consolidated into knowledge products. Under the scope of the project, the IPC-IG published a special edition of the Policy in Focus magazine titled “Food and nutrition security: towards the full realisation of human rights”, which analyses initiatives carried out in Brazil and in African countries to promote the realisation of the human right to adequate food and nutrition; the study “Social Protection in Africa: inventory of non-contributory programmes", which mapped and profiled 127 non-contributory programmes from 39 African countries, and over 25 other publications in several languages.
All the results have been compiled and shared in a comprehensive report titled “Progress Report on the implementation of Outcome 1 of the Project Brazil & Africa: fighting poverty and empowering women via South-South Cooperation.” Read the full report here