Series: 190,000 young people learning more in stronger systems
Since 2019, PEAS has been working with governments to use evidence from PEAS secondary school networks to create positive change in the wider education system.
Our approach brings together district education officers and school leaders into a vibrant local network, passionate about school improvement. They focus on what they can change, not what they can’t. So, what have we learned from partnering with African governments?
Working closely with the Ministries of Education in Uganda and Zambia, we co-created the Inspect & Improve programme in Uganda and the Targeted Improvement for Equitable Education in Zambia (TIEEZ) programme. These co-created programmes are designed to support district education offices and school leaders to drive improvements that deliver inclusive, sustainable, quality education to their learners.
Since partnering with government, we’ve learned that successful government partners must…
1. Understand and align with government goals, and co-create solutions to reach them
For effective system change to happen, government actors need to play a leading role in developing or adapting an innovation, so it aligns with their goals. By aligning with government goals, partners can ensure they’re acting responsibly and co-developing a solution that can have a long-lasting positive impact on marginalised young people.
2. Combine what you know works with a demand-driven approach
While working towards government goals is key, share wider evidence about what works. PEAS has evidence from our 15 years of experience building and running one of the largest school networks in Sub-Saharan Africa. We share our internal and external evidence to identify new approaches and solutions that really work in our context, and work with government to make sure our programmes are evidence-based.
3. Be responsive partners and remain flexible
Government officials have multiple competing demands on their time, and priorities can shift. Successful government partners should plan for this and be flexible. During our partnerships with Ministries of Education, we’ve seen personnel, budgets and priorities change. In response, we’ve adapted our programme to accommodate these and ensure we remain relevant to governments’ goals.
4. Build strong relationships across a department or ministry and be prepared for changes in personnel
Changes in government staffing are inevitable, even between elections. To create an effective long-term partnership, it’s critical to build relationships and collaborate with multiple stakeholders. Invest time in building relationships with key actors across a department, ministry, and government, and identify champions of change that can support innovative programmes. Alongside that, find institutional mechanisms to root your programme in permanent systems, be that through documented commitments, budgets, or work plans that give you a reason to be part of the handover process from old personnel to new.
4. Keep the ‘endgame’ in mind from the start, and focus on sustainable solutions
Identify your goal, and how you’ll achieve it from the start. At PEAS, we aim to develop successful government-led solutions that transform the secondary education system and can be embedded into government’s business as usual. We keep this in mind at all stages of our government partnerships and ensure we provide government partners with the evidence and information that they want to support decision-making.
We are committed to finding sustainable solutions in everything we do, including our work outside of PEAS’ network. We know that government partners want this too and have seen many promising programmes start and finish when funding ends. To ensure long-lasting impact, aim to ensure any new approach represents value for money and is low-cost enough to be embedded into business as usual. This must be embedded throughout all programme decisions and design.
5. Work in collaboration with others
A core PEAS value is to be ‘collaborative, not competitive.’ With many organisations also working to achieve similar goals, it’s important to find synergies to collaborate with others. This, we have found, is our best shot at true system change.