The Participatory Policy Analysis (PPA)

The main result of the Collective Assessment Phase consists of a Participatory Policy Analysis that outlines the key aspects of the policy that will need to be addressed during the dialogue process. It takes the form of a policy document that represents the evidence base upon which the deliberations of the Consensus Building Phase are to take place. In this sense, it plays a crucial role in ensuring that the dialogue focuses on actual evidence instead of beliefs, prejudices, or unfounded assumptions.


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One of the key tenets that uphold the INSPIRED method is the importance of relying on actual evidence – data, statistics, evaluation reports, surveys, end-user testimonies, etc. – to ensure the rigour and robustness of the recommendations that will come out of the dialogue process. Unfortunately, the culture of evidence-based policy making is not as widespread as it should be, and policy-makers often take their decisions about the direction of a given policy on the basis of other factors – political pressure, bureaucratic inertia, need to keep their constituencies or interest groups satisfied, etc. This trend is worsened by the secondary role that is generally awarded to policy evaluation and the scarce resources that are allocated to it, partly due to its technical complexity, but also to its political implications.

However, the INSPIRED method does not only conceive the production, analysis, or processing of evidence as a prerequisite for sound and sustainable policies, but also as a means of progressively building trust among the participants of the dialogue process. Hence the importance of ensuring that the PPA is truly participatory and duly reflects the discussions held by the stakeholders along with the Collective Assessment Phase. Needless to say, this joint work also implies a mutual learning process where stakeholders progressively develop a shared vision of the challenges presented by the policy at stake and the different angles from which societal problems can be perceived.


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Despite its participatory nature and the importance of reflecting the diversity of ideas and viewpoints that will surely have emerged during the Collective Assessment Phase, at the end of the day someone needs to put things on paper in a clear and coherent way. This is usually done by one or two policy experts engaged by the Dialogue Host and duly briefed on the participatory nature of the exercise. Those policy experts, who are often academics with a track record in advising government bodies and producing policy papers, should not only be knowledgeable of the policy area that is being addressed, but also must be capable of collecting, considering, and reconciling the different perspectives that would arise throughout the Collective Assessment Phase. In other words, however technically flawless or academically impeccable the resulting document may be, it would not meet its purpose if it is written single-handedly and without taking on board the suggestions and contributions of the stakeholders. Therefore, the policy experts also need to incorporate the evidence that is available (or purposefully produced) by the key stakeholders in the dialogue process, for example through data generation and research grants provided (see below).

This is especially important because the trust dynamics that the INSPIRED method seeks to instil into the dialogue process are based on the collective nature of this research, as stakeholders are invited to consider the key elements of the targeted policy in an open and deliberative manner that allows to progressively develop a shared vision of the challenges ahead. Moreover, those same stakeholders will need to develop a strong feeling of ownership over the PPA because it will constitute the main evidence base upon which the discussions of the Consensus Building phase will be taking place.

This is to say that, besides their technical competency, the policy experts must display an open and pedagogic attitude towards their work, remaining aware at all times that the added value of the PPA lies in its participatory nature. To this end, the policy expert(s) should make extensive use of conceptual tools such as problem trees, SWOT analysis, etc. but deploying them as facilitation techniques, so that the stakeholders involved in the analysis can already start to express their different views, expound their positions and even vent out their emotions with regards to especially sensitive aspects. Time-consuming as this may be, it remains crucial to ensure that everyone feels part of the process.

Last but not least, the policy experts need to build on the existing capacities of the stakeholders, stimulating their proactive participation and coordinating their technical inputs through a division of labour that makes the most of their contributions. For instance, if a CSO is specialized in monitoring a given aspect of the policy – e.g.: victims of gender-based violence, complaints about violations of labour rights, etc. – the PPA should base its findings on those sources and even try to identify potential synergies with other stakeholders or encourage means of improving the data-collection methods through collaboration.


Being the result of a collective endeavour and depending on the policy area that it tackles, the PPA may take different shapes and rely on a diversity of sources, but there are some common elements that should be addressed.

Context and problem definition

This section will consist of an introduction to the topic and a first attempt to define the problem, describing it as thoroughly as possible and analysing its causes and consequences for the target groups and the affected population. Whenever possible, it should make reference to the political context of the country in order to frame the problem into the wider picture of national & local politics.

This section should also look into the adequacy of the state’s response to the problem, describing the policy initiatives undertaken by the government to tackle the problem at stake and mitigate its consequences for the population. These initiatives need to be assessed from a practical perspective by analysing the national budget and comparing the resources allocated to the actual magnitude of the problem. Another dimension that needs to be assessed is the level of government in which decisions are being taken and actions are being implemented (local, regional, national). Whenever possible, make reference to existing performance measurement frameworks and the quality of the data underpinning the policy or policies at stake.

Policy landscape

This should include both the legal framework of the policy or policies at stake (the description should follow a top-down approach by listing first the international conventions or treaties ratified by the government and then the laws and regulations at national and regional levels) and the different government tools (cf. strategies, action plans, agendas) and their description (also include duration, scope, results).

Implementation mechanisms

The PPA should also outline the different institutional organisations/agencies with competencies regarding the enforcement of laws and regulations on the topic and describe their role. Secondly, it should categorise the different types of enforcement efforts on the topic, as well as any relevant programmes funded either by the state or by donors.

Institutional framework

This section should include the different stakeholders identified during the mapping exercise with a brief description of their role, function and interest in the policy at stake. It must also explain the way in which the different coordination mechanisms installed by the government (cf. committees, commissions, councils, Directorate-Generals, Interministerial teams or working groups, etc.) work together and contribute to the implementation of the policy.


In its depiction of the current situation, the PPA must make continuous reference to concrete evidence in the form of indicators. These policy indicators can be of two main types, depending on who takes in charge of their design and follow-up:

  1. Official indicators: In most cases, state institutions rely on the country’s statistical office to design and keep track of those policy indicators considered relevant by public authorities. In a way, these indicators are thus sanctioned by the state and should, in principle, be the most reliable source for updated evidence on the situation in a given policy area. However, this is not always the case, as in many countries the technical capacity of the bodies in charge of statistics remains very weak. In other cases, political interests can introduce different biases in what is being measured and how, or even prevent access to those measurements and the assumptions behind them.

  2. Unofficial indicators: A growing number of policy areas are also being assessed by recognised international initiatives that produce scores and rankings on a wide range of issues. These can be of interest for the dialogue process, especially if they are complemented by “home-grown” indicators that specifically address some key aspects of the problem at stake. For instance, in the case of land grabbing in Myanmar, local CSOs from some of the most affected regions (Mandalay and Shan State) were keeping track of the situation by following the number of cases dealt with by the land re-investigation committees per year, the number of land restitutions per year, the number of consultation mechanisms with CSOs and affected population, etc. This illustrates how, when official information is insufficient, the stakeholders of the dialogue process can propose, design and collect their own set of policy indicators. It must be said that these need to be realistic and feasible –i.e.: adapted to the capacities of the stakeholders involved in the data collection process– and do not need to be quantitative, as qualitative indicators can also shed light on relevant aspects of the policy and its impact on the citizenry/beneficiaries. Along these lines, when confronted with the lack of official information about the lack of information on the labour situation of domestic workers in Cabo Verde, the participants in the INSPIRED dialogue process developed what they considered to be key indicators to grasp the situation: 1) The number of domestic workers enrolled in Social Security; 2) the number of domestic workers receiving at least the minimum wage and 3) the working conditions, which included a number of factors (number of working hours, days off per week, holidays, etc.) that were appraised by means of an ad hoc survey.

Needless to say, both types of indicators are complementary and by combining them the analysis will provide the group of stakeholders with a more rounded vision of the problem at stake and potential solutions that take into consideration the wider picture. As for the problem regarding the access to information, the dialogue process should always explore potential synergies with initiatives such as the Open Government Partnership, the Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency or the Open Budget Initiative to name just some of the most salient international actions and indices on access to information that have been proliferating in the last decade.


Finally, the Participatory Policy Analysis will present a series of conclusions and/or results from the consultation meetings conducted during the collective assessment phase, proposing means to address the problems identified through inclusive and participatory political dialogue. Paradoxical as it may seem, these conclusions should not be too "conclusive," as their function is not to propose solutions at such an early stage of the process, but rather to fuel the debates that will take place during the Consensus Building Phase.

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