This is a guest post by Willem Fourie, Associate Professor at the University of Pretoria.*
The South African SDG Hub is an online platform aiming to link policy makers with research and innovation that can help them put the SDGs into practice.
Launched in 2017 by Minister Jeff Radebe (then Minister in the Presidency) and co-ordinated by the University of Pretoria, the Hub collects, tags and disseminates South African research on the SDGs. It also shares innovations, thanks in particular to a partnership with the country’s Department of Science and Technology.
The Hub has four work streams, which aim to meet the needs of users in government, multilateral organisations and civil society:
- Sharing relevant, useful and reliable research findings through a combination of online and face-to-face platforms;
- Supporting researchers in the way they provide policy advice;
- Facilitating dialogue between diverse actors responsible for the implementation of the SDGs;
- Building SDG implementation skills through short courses and a new interdisciplinary postgraduate degree.
Promoting links between research and policy making is a complex endeavour. It is even more challenging in a context where citizens have little awareness of the SDGs and their relevance for South Africa’s development priorities. Globescan’s rather optimistic estimate of SDG awareness in South Africa shows that much remains to be done.
Based on our early experience, we can share three lessons with organisations that want to establish similar platforms:
- More information isn’t necessarily better. It is great to collect as much knowledge as possible, but important to keep platforms usable for policy makers with limited time.
- Digital isn’t enough. In addition to making knowledge available online, we need to build high-trust relationships with people that will use the knowledge for policy making.
- Availability doesn’t necessarily mean quality. Many knowledge repositories contain bad data or unreliable research. While it is important to be inclusive, any platform needs quality control mechanisms.
The Hub is hosted by the Albert Luthuli Centre for Responsible Leadership. It is guided by an Advisory Board, which brings together: the United Nations Development Programme; South Africa’s Department of Planning Monitoring and Evaluation; the Department of Environmental Affairs; the Department of Science and Technology; Statistics South Africa; the Planning and Coordinating Agency of the African Union’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD); and selected development partners and academia.