As civic space is shrinking across the globe MDF partnered with ACER and civil society organisations in East and West Africa and Asia to develop tools and frameworks to support civil society organisations in advocacy and policy influencing.  

During 2023 and 2024, MDF, together with ACER UK, engaged as partners on the Education Out Loud (EOL) programme. As part of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), EOL is a funding stream for Advocacy and Policy Influence (API) in education. Through EOL, civil society organisations (CSOs) can be actively and effectively involved in shaping policy for their communities, especially those that are vulnerable or marginalised.

The mission of the joint work of MDF and ACER UK was to compile evidence for API strategies and support grant recipients to become more effective in implementing these advocacy and policy strategies.

To accomplish this, the collaborative project was divided into two parts:

One, the consortium MDF-ACER worked with several EOL grantees, helping them test the key assumptions underlying their programme theory of change.

Two, the project documented the EOL-funded API strategies. It analysed how the strategies operated in different contexts and looked for similarities and differences among them.

MDF and ACER’s collaboration

First, MDF-ACER, together with EOL, delineated the research objectives, which consisted of:

  • Focus on how Civil Society Organisations engage in Advocacy and Policy Influencing to improve equitable learning outcomes. This is especially in relation to gender, intersectionality, and social inclusion.
  • Investigate, review, and learn from grantees’ education API efforts. The aim was to identify strategies and practices that have been effective in instigating change at local, regional and national levels. In addition, to shed some light on the conditions that contributed to their effectiveness.

Based on these objectives MDF-ACER conducted the following activities with participating grantee organisations:

  • Participatory workshops using the SCM (Social Change Matrix) in reviewing and reflecting on organisation's Theories of Change and programmatic approaches. These workshops gave insight into the assumptions made in organisation’s programs and how to test these assumptions through conducting Action Research
  • Conducting capacity assessments with organisations to determine capacity and support needed in conducting Action Research
  • Support grantee’s in conducting research on their assumptions including literature review, consultation with stakeholders, data collection and analysis and validation workshops to reflect on findings  

Work with Grantee Organisations

The consortium worked with three grantees across five countries in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. They were:

In the workshops, grantees were asked to identify their main assumptions in their Advocacy and Policy Influence projects and programmes, and to prioritise the assumptions they wished to explore through Action Research. The Social Change Matrix was used to identify key stakeholders in both formal and informal domains who could assist in bringing about systemic and inclusive change. The SCM was significant in highlighting the importance of all domains and levels of influence that must be considered to achieve impact.

Social change matrix

MDF-ACER supported grantees in conducting Action Research on the prioritised assumptions they had previously identified. This process included the formulation of objectives and research questions, data collection, data analysis, and validation workshops with stakeholders. Each grantee delivered case study reports based on their action research process and findings. You can access them below:

Education Out Loud Case Study-IID (Bangladesh)

Education Out Loud Case Study-School for Life (Ghana)

Education Out Loud Case Study-GEAR Alliance (Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe)

The final report for on the Education out Loud Project by MDF-ACER can be found here.

Online Learning Modules by MDF

In collaboration with the Global Campaign for Education (GCE), MDF produced three online learning modules based on the topics covered in the Education Out Loud project. These focused use of the Social Change Matrix, Best Advocacy and Policy Influencing Practises by Grantees and the Action Research Process.  

An overview of these modules can be found here and access to the modules can be found on the GCE’s Learning Hub. To access the modules you need to create an online account.

Takeaways from the project: Hear from the grantees themselves!

The team at the Institute of Informatics and Development in Bangladesh (IID) conducted Action Research to identify what hinders citizens' engagement with decision makers. They focused on the challenges and changes needed for greater citizen engagement. As a result of the process, IID identified factors that encourage decision makers to engage with citizens and how to better involve them in policy decisions.

Vita Hwenjere from SAYWHAT shared her experience from the recent Action Research that was conducted under the GEAR Alliance. The research was focused on increasing the educational budgets of governments and provided SAYWHAT with the opportunity to critically reflect on their projects and strategies. It also brought project champions together to hear more about the issues affecting them on the ground.