‘Research Weeks’, in the context of parliamentary library & research services, are events to promote awareness and use of research by parliamentarians. The distinctive feature of this type of event is that they bring in external research bodies to promote their work directly to the parliament. They may combine this with promotion of the in-house research service although that is not always the case. ‘Research Weeks’ are discussed as a promotional method, with case studies, in this previous post.
The Research Department of the National Assembly of Zambia was impressed by the experience of their colleagues in Uganda (reported in the post linked above) and worked with the Inter-Parliamentary Union to put on a ‘research week’ event in their parliament in September 2022.
The ‘Research Awareness Week’ was a lively affair with active participation by Members! You can see for yourself in the photos and videos below.
Honourable Philimon Twasa, MP dancing to a traditional piece at the official launch of the Research Awareness Week
The text below is an account of the experience provided by Mr Kelezo Lushako, Research Officer of the Research Department, National Assembly of Zambia. The first part (1) is a report on the event which is followed by (2) Photos and (3) Videos. The final part (4) has reflections from Kelezo on the practical experience of organising and putting on the event.
THE RESEARCH AWARENESS WEEK (RAW), HELD FROM TUESDAY, 20TH TO THURSDAY, 22ND SEPTEMBER, 2022, AT PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS IN LUSAKA, ZAMBIA
1. Report on the event
“USE OF EVIDENCE IS THE LIFEBLOOD OF PARLIAMENTS” – SPEAKER MUTTI
Parliamentarians regularly face the temptation to debate from personal or political stand-points often neglecting credible evidence. When this practice is sustained, it leads to irreparable effects of disinformation and misinformation. The impact is severe as it results in the loss of confidence and honor placed on the Legislature. These were some of the sentiments shared by the Rt. Honourable Madam Nelly Mutti, MP, Speaker of the National Assembly of Zambia at the official launch of the inaugural Research Awareness Week (RAW) held in Lusaka, Zambia.
The National Assembly of Zambia (NAZ), in collaboration with the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), held the Research Awareness Week (‘RAW’) from 20th to 22nd September, 2022, at Parliament Buildings, under the theme: “Scaling Up the Use of Evidence Among Parliamentarians”. The event sought to raise the profile and visibility of the Research Department with a view of increasing demand for research products and services by Members of Parliament (MPs).
The event was held following a series of preparatory works that began as early as 2019. However, the process was punctuated with postponements due to several challenges, which included the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, inadequate funding and the maiden nature of the event. In March, 2022, the Research Department, with support from the IPU, resumed preparatory works for the RAW until its eventual accomplishment in September of that same year. In the build-up to the event, IPU played a facilitatory role such as aiding the learning and adaptation of experiences, insights and lessons from Parliaments of Uganda, Ghana, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. In addition to technical assistance, the IPU provided financial support in excess of US$13,000 to cover expenses for branding materials and printing research products that were exhibited during the RAW.
The Research Department held the RAW for three (3) days alongside seven (7) external stakeholders, namely:
- Zambia Statistics Agency (ZAMSTAT);
- United Nations System;
- Oxfam Zambia;
- Civil Society for Poverty Reduction (CSPR);
- The Institute of Economic and Social Research (INESOR), a research Centre of the University of Zambia (UNZA);
- Zambia Institute for Policy Analysis and Research (ZIPAR); and
- Agricultural Policy Research and Outreach Institute (IAPRI).
The exhibitors took turns to induct an overwhelming clientele, mostly MPs, on the products and services on display, stirring healthy interactions between information suppliers and users. During the event, MPs as primary users collected several publications for use in their parliamentary work as well as for restocking their Constituency Office Information Centres.
Ultimately, holding the RAW, alongside external exhibitors, led to an unprecedented spike in demand for research products and services by MPs. The increased demand and use of evidence among parliamentarians was the most noticeable outcome that confirmed the raised profile and visibility of the Research Department.
2. Photos of the event
3. Videos of the event
Launch of the Research Awareness Week
[Note there is a series of short reflections by individual Members on the value of research and quality information to their work, as well as their thoughts on the Research Awareness Week – at 19:45-26:10 in the video. IW]
Tour of the stands
4. The experience of preparing and running the event
EXPERIENCES OF HOSTING THE RESEARCH AWARENESS WEEK (RAW)
The Research Department of the National Assembly of Zambia acquired valuable experiences during the preparatory phase of its inaugural Research Awareness Week (RAW) that was held from 11th to 23rdSeptember, 2022. The experiences include those on the process, challenges and opportunities during the period 2019 to 2022.
What prompted you to hold the RAW?
Intentions to hold the RAW emanated from concerns raised about the declined demand for research products and services by Members of Parliament (MPs). The reduced demand for research products and services existed for some time. These concerns were confirmed in the 2019 self-assessment report which revealed that parliamentary research services in supporting the oversight function of Parliament were inadequate. In this regard, the Research Department resolved to find means of making the Department more visible as a way of scaling-up the demand for its products and services.
What kind of work involved the initial preparations?
The Research Department succeeded in drafting key planning documents in readiness to hold the RAW in 2020. Some of the documents included the concept note, budget and implementation plan. Meanwhile, the Department also begun wide consultations with the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), sister Parliaments and other Organisations resident within Zambia. The maiden nature of the event prompted the Department to draw lessons and learn from the experiences of the IPU and other Parliaments that had held similar events in the past. The idea was to help the National Assembly Research Department to successfully hold the RAW. However, the event could not take place as earlier planned in 2020 due to a number of challenges.
Why did it take you so long to hold your inaugural RAW?
The RAW was postponed due to a number of challenges, key among them was the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic which forced the global community to suspend physical gatherings as they were seen to be the major factor contributing to the rapid spreading of the Covid-19 virus. Additionally, the Department suspended the RAW due to inadequate funds. However, after the Covid-19 pandemic subsided, the Research Department, in collaboration with the IPU, managed to source the funds and resumed the preparatory work in March, 2022.
Who did you collaborate with to actualise your plans?
To actualise the RAW plan, eleven (11) Departments of the National Assembly of Zambia were incorporated to provide support services required for hosting the event. In addition, seven (7) external partners were carefully selected to participate in the RAW on the basis of their value as alternative sources of evidence for MPs and essential partners for research information.
Did you experience any specific challenges with the partners?
The steering team experienced some difficulties when coordinating the internal and external partners largely owing to inexperience. This was quite obvious because it was the first time our Parliament held an event of that sort. However, the exposure from the IPU sufficiently enlightened the team to expect challenges of this nature.
How was the turn-out of Members of Parliament and did you manage to meet all their requests?
The holding of the RAW, alongside external exhibitors, attracted the attention of most MPs who visited the exhibition stands to enquire on the various products and services on display. The Members turned-up in large numbers during the period of the RAW, mainly to collect the limited copies of products on display for use in their parliamentary work as well as restocking their Parliamentary Constituency Office Information Centres. Unfortunately, not all MPs managed to access the hardcopies because only a few were printed for display. In hindsight, more hardcopies should have been printed for MPs, however, the Department desired to uphold the e-Parliament agenda and reduce the use of paper as much as possible. Moreover, the funds were not adequate to make the extra copies for MPs.
What opportunities have you witnessed after holding the RAW?
Despite facing a number of challenges during the preparation phase, the RAW presented a number of opportunities for the Research Department. The opportunities include; increased numbers of MPs visiting the Research Department, strengthened collaboration with external partners and having the opportunity to assess information needs of MPs. Further, holding the inaugural RAW, helped the Research Department to fulfill the objective of raising its profile and visibility, so as to enhance the demand for research products and services by MPs.
NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF ZAMBIA
P. Box 31299