Coalitions Using Problem Driven Political Economy Analysis

As we support coalitions to drive their own advocacy agenda, we believe ensuring they have access to tools like political economy analysis is key. In the first quarter of 2021, we commissioned case studies in Kenya and Nigeria to explore the efficacy of this approach and to get feedback from the coalitions on ‘what is working, where, why and how’ in using PEA approaches to achieve their advocacy objectives.

The analysis was informed by  project and coalition documentation, in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with civil society and government stakeholders.

“As CSOs, all along we have been known as ‘watu wa matawi’ [people of the twigs, about waving twigs during demonstrations] but the narrative has changed in the recent past since we have been able to sit with the policymakers and advocate for different issues, such as MNH for example.” CSO member, Nairobi

Over the last two years, E4A-MamaYe has been working with coalitions to influence policy and budgeting for improved maternal and neonatal health. A core principle of effective advocacy is ensuring it responds to the political economy context of the issue that advocates aim to change.

Political economy analysis (PEA) is a tool used to explore the “interaction of political and economic processes in a society, the distribution of power and wealth between different groups and individuals, and the processes that sustain and transform these relationships over time.”[1] Executing routine and rapid PEAs, enables advocates to identify, and later reassess, advocacy targets and pathways to achieving their goals by understanding underlying interests, incentives, and institutions that affect change.

E4A-MamaYe has provided training and mentorship to coalitions in Kenya and Nigeria to enable them to use  PEA approaches  to plan their advocacy. We use a “problem driven” PEA approach to identify the factors affecting maternal and child health,  the interactions between the political, economic and social factors that affect a problem and understand the different interest and power dynamics that can help or hinder change. We support coalitions to use these findings to map out the steps they can take in the short and long term to achieve their goals and forge key alliances that make them allies rather than the adversaries of decision-makers.



Below are our three top takeaways from these studies, which are available to download as individual country reports.

1. Taking time to train coalitions in approaches more typically used by donor-funded programmes forms an important part of local ownership and decolonising aid.

For coalitions to be truly sustainable, they should be able to determine their own advocacy priorities and not only be agents for the objectives of others.  Approaches like political economy analyses enable coalitions to drive their own agendas. In our case studies, members of coalitions in Lagos and Bungoma spoke of how the PEA approach had enabled them to identify the bottlenecks to change within their context and adapt their advocacy to pursue accountability. Of the process, coalition members remarked:

“[It showed] that people can be changed without them knowing they have changed towards achieving a particular aim. It has helped in redirecting our focus at LASAM to more improved and rewarding programmes and projects through active involvement of the key stakeholders that will assist in quality service delivery. It has also helped to make our workplan much more responsive.” Participant, Lagos

“The only way we can get a listening ear from these MCAs on matters MNH is if we tie the end result of what we are advocating for to their political aspiration and how the program will make the citizens vote them in in the next elections”. – Coalition member, Nairobi

2. Language is important and can reinforce existing power dynamics

The language and concepts used in a political economy analysis can be complex, which in turn can support power structures that undermine local ownership. Whilst it is important to equip members of coalitions with relevant terminology, it is also important that such approaches aren’t talked about in a way which can exclude individuals. Throughout our case studies we found the meaning given to  PEA language and concepts differed depending on who was spoken with – and this was true even between members of the same coalition. To address this finding from the case studies, we have initiated refresher training and mentorship to some of the coalitions where there was not a consistent understanding of the key principles. Critically, this training and mentorship is now being provided by fellow advocates from the countries in which coalitions operate. For example, the coalitions in Bauchi and Niger States will be mentored by advocates in Lagos State who are better positioned to provide a mentoring role, understanding as they do the complex power dynamics that affect maternal and child health in Nigeria.

3. Prepare for disappointment and be nimble to change

As demonstrated in the case study for Kenya,  PEA approaches can help coalitions to be more resilient by enabling them to respond to contextual changes, returning back to the drawing board if needed. Something as simple as a political “single stroke of a pen” as in the example of the takeover of Nairobi county’s health services by central government, can make previous PEA mapping and steps to change planning seem redundant. It’s important that despite these shifts, coalitions don’t lose heart and critical here is ensuring that the PEA remains an active, alive and not paper-based exercise. This ensures that the strength of the approach is in understanding power dynamics in decision-making processes, informing the active forging of alliances with key players. Whilst the precise targets may shift, power structures and alliances can still exert strong influence and no political understanding or relationships are wasted.

E4A-MamaYe is committed to supporting coalitions to determine their own agendas and work sustainably to drive change on maternal and neonatal health. Training and mentorship on approaches, such as PEA, can help coalitions navigate the environments in which they work, forge alliances, “market” the issue and achieve their goals. 

For more on our PEA approaches, including how to map out steps to change see our Advocacy Handbook.

[1] Collinson, 2003; DFID, 2009).

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