There’s a vibrant budget advocacy community in Uganda made up of a wide range of actors from academics to bold and adversarial civil society groups. These include the Black Monday Movement, and others who undertake advocacy efforts centred on debt, corruption and the environment.
But the quality and success of this community is often adversely affected by the lack of a strong evidence base rooted in data and analysis. Key reasons for this are 1) barriers to accessing data about public spending, 2) poor data quality such that it does not provide a clear or reliable picture, and 3) limited understanding of the benefits of using data and evidence by those doing advocacy work.
DI has been working with the Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG) to overcome these challenges and help improve the use of data in advocacy. We’ve been conducting analyses of Uganda’s national budget for several years. So we teamed up with CSBAG in December 2017 to train grass-root budget advocates in basic budget data literacy and budget policy process. This aimed to strengthen their engagement with policymakers at national and local levels on budget matters. It matters because data-literate budget advocates are far better equipped to ensure their efforts are rooted in sound evidence.
Our training focused on how to source and use data, highlighting how tools such as DI’s Spotlight on Uganda can be used to support the budget advocacy work CSBAG and its members do. In doing so, we equipped CSBAG’s staff and members operating at national and subnational levels with more knowledge of key budget data, and demonstrated how such data can be used to support policy analysis and advocacy. We emphasised how the digital age provides us with new ways of engaging policymakers such as harnessing technology to access the evidence that underpins our advocacy efforts.
35 budget advocates from 10 districts representing different regions of Uganda came along to the 2-day training. Most operate at subnational level, but a handful are also active at national level. We tackled the basics of advocacy from inception to engagement; budget processes and the roles of different players in them; and related national and subnational resource allocation frameworks. We emphasised how to increase the use of evidence and data for more robust and successful budget advocacy. On this front we explored a variety of themes, including key sources for budget and budget-relevant data in Uganda, basics of data analysis, extracting advocacy messages from data, and making evidenced-based pitches to duty bearers.
The training raised important questions from participants, such as how to tell the authenticity of data sources; how to interrogate government use of ‘cherry-picked’ data and analysis; how to tell what the real story is given the sometimes multiple, conflicting sources; and how to make sure data is timely and relevant given that budget processes and data production processes do not always go together in timing.
These and other questions reinforced the need for DI and CSBAG to keep in constant touch with subnational budget advocates, and establish beneficial links between national and local level resource allocation stakeholders. The training further raised the need for regular updates of our data and analysis to meet the needs of budget advocacy stakeholders. We look forward to this ongoing relationship as we continue to promote budget advocacy in Uganda.