Results for All is currently assessing whether a global evidence network that facilitates collaboration and an exchange of experiences between policymakers could help to advance and institutionalize the use of evidence in government. We invite you to participate by taking our short survey, here.
The survey will take less than 10 minutes, and will close on October 31.
If you are not a government policymaker, you can still click on the link above and provide input in the space provided. Additionally, we encourage you to contact us at any time to learn more about our work.
We appreciate your support in forwarding the survey to other government policymakers who can help us to assess the demand for a global evidence network.
Results for All’s just-released “100+ Government Mechanisms to Advance the Use of Data and Evidence in Policymaking: A Landscape Review” and case studies on Ghana, Kenya and Canada can be downloaded here
By Abeba Taddese, Executive Director, Results for All
For the last 18 months, Results for America’s global Results for All initiative has been engaged in a landscape review to understand the different approaches governments are taking to create formal strategies and mechanisms – specifically, policies, programs, platforms, systems and operational practices – to advance and institutionalize the use of data and evidence in decision making.
We’ve had a fulfilling year of learning from government leaders, experts and citizens around the world, and we are eager to share some of our insights here:
The last 5 to 7 years have been a busy time for governments. Outside of the long-established evaluation systems in countries like Mexico, Colombia and Chile, we observe that many of the formal structures governments are putting in place to support evidence-informed policymaking (EIP) are quite recent. Separately, we note a growing body of literature on evidence-informed policymaking, notably exploring constraints or barriers to EIP, and factors that enable data- and evidence-driven decision making.
While institutional strategies and mechanisms are necessary and often a precondition for routine and consistent use of data and evidence in policy and programs, they aren’t enough on their own. There is widespread agreement among policymakers and evidence producers alike, that policymaking is complex, multi-dimensional, and influenced by many factors. It is far from a linear “evidence in, policy out” process. Contextual factors ranging from leadership, commitment and allocation of resources to political climate, values and belief systems are critical influences in any policy process.
Governments are taking different, context-specific approaches to creating formal strategies and mechanisms. And they are sharing information about their processes and learning from each other. The study tours to Mexico, Colombia and the United States that helped to inform South Africa’s monitoring and evaluation system, the data-driven community safety approach in Saskatchewan, Canada (Hub) adapted from Scotland’s Violence Reduction Unit model, and the collaboration between the Office of the Prime Minister in Uganda and Malaysia’s Performance Management and Delivery Unit (PEMANDU) are a few examples that stand out.
Ultimately, EIP isn’t about a specific approach or type of evidence, but rather finding context-appropriate ways to make better use of data and evidence in real-life policy and program decisions. This last point is worth underscoring, in the spirit of ensuring that we don’t end up with a jargon-laden theoretical field that distracts the EIP community – whether government actors, nongovernmental organization partners (NGOs) or the philanthropic community – from the end goal of achieving better outcomes for populations.
There appears to be an emphasis in government on creating structures and systems to improve access to data and evidence, while NGOs are playing a more central role in facilitating partnerships between policymakers and evidence producers as well as building the individual capacity of policymakers. Our review is not exhaustive or definitive, so we can’t say for certain why this might be the case. But we surmise that there may be a “build and they will come” approach to the use of data and evidence in government policymaking, and that governments may prioritize spending of finite resources on tangible infrastructure. For NGOs, partnership building and training activities often offer less bureaucratic and politicized entry points for supporting government efforts to advance EIP.
We’ll be building on this work in the months ahead, and close with a few questions we hope to explore further:
How effective are government strategies and mechanisms in promoting the use of data and evidence? Are there approaches that are more effective than others in improving the use of evidence, and that ultimately have the greatest impact in achieving development objectives?
How can governments be best supported in their efforts to institutionalize the use of data and evidence? Could structured joint learning and networking approaches help to accelerate the adoption of strategies and mechanisms for advancing the use of data and evidence?
We are grateful to the experts interviewed for this review, who contributed their time and input (you can find many of them listed in Appendix 2 of the report), and to the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation for generously supporting this work.
We encourage you to continue visiting the Evidence in Actionblog for updates. If you have questions or would like more information, please contact me at Abeba@results4all. And please share your feedback with us by tweeting at @resultsforall with the hashtag #GlobalLandscapeReview.
In January 2015, we launched Results for All with a deep curiosity about how governments around the world are using data and evidence to drive outcomes. What policies, programs and practices are being used, how are they being instituted, and who are the champions for evidence use? Do political appointees drive evidence-informed policymaking in the executive branch, the civil service, or is the push coming from the legislative branch?
Based on our experience in the United States, through our work with Results for America, we knew that the answers would be mixed. In our case, much of the innovative work to promote the use of data and evidence is happening at the local level, with mayors and county executives understanding the need to produce more for their constituents with fewer resources. At the federal level, the G.W. Bush and Obama presidential administrations both had deep commitments to evidence-informed policymaking, instituting programs and practices that laid the groundwork for more rigorous data collection, program evaluation and outcomes-focused budgeting.
We began exploring the global evidence landscape through our work by organizing Evidence Works 2016: A Global Forum for Government, an event we co-hosted with Nesta’s Alliance for Useful Evidence. Bringing 140 policymakers from 40 countries together – from Australia, Africa, Asia, Latin America, North America and Europe – we learned about the very significant work underway in a variety of contexts – from challenges to solutions, lessons learned and best practices.
The learnings from Evidence Works 2016 served as a foundation for additional outreach and research we conducted for the landscape review of government mechanisms to advance the use of data and evidence in policymaking. This review, which will be released later this month, is the culmination of 18 months of conversations, interviews and country visits to learn more about ways in which governments around the world are institutionalizing the use of data and evidence in decision-making. Coupled with an extensive literature review, we’re confident that we’ve captured a range of examples that showcase what governments are doing to promote evidence-informed policymaking. Our hope is that this will be a useful resource that can be improved with additional knowledge and input over time.
As we finalize the landscape review, what have we learned? The short answer is that we’ve learned more than we thought possible. But here are some of my personal observations:
The evidence movement is relatively young and truly global. In the last five to seven years, policymakers at all levels of government and in all parts of the world have been implementing policies, platforms and practices to incorporate data and evidence into decision making. The diversity of examples will be surprising to many readers.
There is no single or best type of evidence. Governments are different and need a diversity of approaches for tackling their challenges. From data analytics to behavioral insights to impact evaluation, there is a broad evidence spectrum and a need for tools and resources to promote uptake across that spectrum.
There is a general disconnect between evidence producers and evidence users that needs to be addressed. A number of organizations and academic institutions are working to address problems of knowledge translation, and to sensitize researchers to the need for timely, relevant evidence that meets the demands of decision-makers. At the same time, governments are building skills and capacity to use outside sources of evidence that they deem credible and trustworthy. While progress is being made to close the gap, more work needs to be done, and this is a barrier to evidence use that exists in the north and south, and at all levels of government.
Evidence-informed policymaking can only occur if there is a sustained demand for evidence. Producing evidence in a timely and accessible manner is a first step, but without demand from policymakers for evidence, there is little chance that it will be used. In some cases, internal champions can start a movement and even build networks of support within government for evidence-informed policymaking. In other cases, outside organizations have led the charge, with direct advocacy campaigns and through building public support for evidence. This is a key area where governments can continue to learn from each other about what works and share experiences that can help propel the evidence movement forward.
Having the right mechanisms in place to promote evidence-informed policymaking is critical. The landscape review focuses primarily on the infrastructure, policies and practices that strengthen government’s ability to use data and evidence. We highlight the four key conditions that enable the use of data and evidence at a government or institution level: (1) commitment, (2) allocation of resources, (3) incentives, and (4) a culture that supports learning and improving. In addition to technical support, information sharing and networking can help build and strengthen capacity and know-how; we shouldn’t underestimate the power and value of peer-to-peer learning in driving the evidence agenda forward.
It has been an immense pleasure to help launch Results for All and to explore the global evidence landscape. I’ll look forward to the reactions to the landscape review and to keeping in touch with Results for All during its next phase of work.
I’m delighted to announce that Abeba Taddese, who currently serves as the Program Director for Results for All, will take over as Executive Director on July 1. I have accepted a position with the University of Chicago’s Becker Friedman Institute for Economic Research, once again focusing on evidence production — helping University of Chicago economists produce accessible and relevant research that can inform the public debate.
Thank you for welcoming us into the global evidence community and I hope that our paths cross again soon. You can continue to reach Abeba at Abeba@Results4All.org, and you should look for communications around the landscape review in the near future.
Are you a leader in a government agency eager to improve the use of knowledge in policy?
INASPandPolitics & Ideasinvitegovernment agenciesto participate in an opportunity to improve the use of knowledge in policy through the application of anew diagnostic tool. This tool can help agencies clearly understand the current state of knowledge production and use to inform policy, identify windows of opportunity for change, prioritize areas for improvement and co-design feasible change plans.
This call is looking for committed change makers that are eager to initiate a process of change in their organizations or support a process that has already started. Applications are welcome from:
Individual government agencies
joint proposals from government agencies and local policy research institutions (think tank, university centre, policy research institute, etc.)
The selected government agencies will receive:
A comprehensive and systematic diagnosisof their production and use of knowledge to inform policy
A document withprioritized areas for change
Atailored change plan,with concrete activities and methods to address the prioritized areas of change
How to apply
Please read the full terms of reference before applying for this call:
Author, Kirchuffs Atengble, Programme Coordinator (VakaYiko), Ghana Information Network for Knowledge Sharing (GINKS)
“I encourage new entrants to prepare and present statements on any issue of interest. Apply the Question Time well. Your brilliant visibility will affect your re-election. I will meet with leadership on this and seek support of the leading Think Tanks in Ghana to help you deliver. A comprehensive mentoring process is vital for improved performance”. – Rt. Hon. Prof. Mike Ocquaye (Speaker, Parliament of Ghana)
The desire for developing adequate capacity for the uptake of research and other evidence has driven the Parliament of Ghana to enter into partnerships in this regard. And the above statement from the Speaker of the seventh Parliament of the Republic of Ghana, in his inauguration reaffirms the legislature’s need for evidence in its deliberative function as a major public policymaking institution in Ghana.
This blog post traces the inspiration for innovations within the information support system of Parliament (comprising the research, library, ICT, Hansard and Committees departments) and makes the case for collaboration among institutional support partners, including the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) and the VakaYiko consortium.
A brief background
A review of the information support system of the Parliament of Ghana by VakaYiko consortium, under the leadership of INASP (a UK-based charity organisation), found that there was little coordination around the request for and supply of evidence within the legislature.
The 7-minute documentary film focuses on Seattle‘s efforts to address homelessness, building on their work with What Works Cities to build technical capacity, enhance open data systems, and improve the City’s performance management system.
The full documentary film can be found here. The next films in the series will focus on efforts to use data and evidence to improve outcomes in areas such as workforce development and early childhood education.
Q&A with Carolina Pozo, Director and Co-Founder WONDER Social Innovation Lab, Former Director and Co-Founder LINQ Public Innovation LAB
We asked Carolina Pozo, the Former Director and Co-Founder LINQ Public Innovation LAB in Quito, Ecuador, about her work to promote open data systems in Ecuador.
1. Please tell us about your work to promote open data platforms.
I launched the first open data platform in Ecuador, for the City of Quito in 2014. In the pursuit to build on an open government governance model, which promotes transparency, collaboration and citizen participation, having an open data platform is a key step in the process. The implementation of the technology was efficiently done in less than three months, however any open data platform has to be accompanied by a communication strategy. The internal and external buy-in of a new initiative, unknown by the majority, required great deal of lobbying within the city government officials and great investment in communicating citizens and other external stakeholders of the value and use of open data. Our approach started with 350 data sets and maps which included statistics and demographic data, open budget, open contracting and real time data. Open data is not only transparency, is should provide useful data for citizens- on a daily basis, such as traffic, air pollution, availability of parking spots. It should also have an API so that programmers can have access to key data in real time to create mobile applications that can improve public services.
2. What specific challenges were you trying to address?
Public service delivery in the city government lacked base line analysis and impact measurements, hence most public projects were inefficient and a waste of public resources. To improve the way we address public issues, innovation is necessary. At the lab we used a open innovation process which involves working with external stakeholders in co-creating solutions for public problems. This five step iteration process is based on an experimental approach, where the city government collaborated with citizens and organization to generate high impact solutions. An important aspect in on the use of data to have a baseline and measure the impact of these solutions.
Collective intelligence through collaboration and citizen participation provides more and better insights. These external stakeholders were mapped and addressed, based on their expertise and type of involvement they can have with the government, depending on the issue we want to address. We call it the innovation ecosystem and it consists on individuals and organization on different public and private fields, locally and internationally.
We want to know where existing capacity for evidence maps, systematic reviews, and other forms of syntheses lies across Africa. This survey takes no more than 10 minutes.The deadline is Tuesday, 28th February.
If you have not conducted this kind of research before but you would like to, or indeed you are more interested in how systematic reviews, evidence maps and syntheses might be useful as part of research frameworks or decision-making frameworks, please complete the survey. After the initial questions, you can skip to the final section and tell us more in the comments box.
The Africa Evidence Network (AEN) is a community of people who work in Africa and have an interest in evidence, its production and use in decision-making. The Network is supported by the Africa Centre for Evidence within the University of Johannesburg and includes researchers, practitioners and policy-makers from universities, civil society and government. www.africaevidencenetwork.org
Ravish Bhatia is presently working with the Engagements team of the Swaniti Initiative, a New Delhi-based organization that delivers development solutions to over 90 Parliamentarians across states and party lines in India on issues of health, education, gender and livelihood.
“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” The underlying theme of this popular adage by Peter Drucker has found much resonance in today’s rapidly changing, if not always evolving, world. Be it collecting information about immigrants to ‘manage’ their activities or pushing for digital transactions in the banking and financial sectors, there is an emerging desire by governments to collect data at an increasingly more granular level. This, just to clarify, is not necessarily a bad thing. In the knowledge-based economies of the future, the more prepared governments are, the better it is for democracies. Governments across the world, much later than corporates, have begun to accept the fact that Big Data is like a tsunami waiting to envelope us. The real question or concern here is ‘Are rural economies ready to handle the shock caused by this tsunami?’
Luckily, the Government of India is one of the few governments across the world with a clear vision and policy level commitment to promote digital economies. However, there are two key shortcomings that must be addressed, if we are to create these digital economies of the future.
First – Readiness. One of the primary characteristics of a digital economy is the use of data to make responsible governance decisions. Unlike other characteristics, such as mobile banking and digital communication that can be driven by investments from private enterprises, data driven governance is the complete responsibility of the elected authority. On this front, we have collected and have access to extensive amount of data, but we are not ready to make the most of it. There is an urgent need for building skillsets that are relevant in the age of Fourth Industrial Revolution across the governance ecosystem. Two cases in point: Gram Panchayats in villages have access to huge chunks of household level data. But are they able to use it to target the most backward demographic segments for employment under MGNREGA? The government monitors data concerning prices in local vegetable mandis. Are local bodies that collect this data able to combine it with other variables such as weather conditions and previous productions, to forecast food shortages and accordingly redistribute grains under PDS? The answers to both these questions are not comforting.
The scope and impact of using data for ‘good governance’ is limitless. What is required is an effective public private partnership that ensures that digital literacy trickles down from the corridors of New Delhi, through the contours of federal structures, to finally reach the rural economies.
The other shortcoming lies in the manner in which the entire value chain is structured. There are three essential steps in this chain – data collection, data analysis and finally data driven decision-making. Concerning the first of these, in a country of more than a billion people we continue to conduct surveys on pen and paper instead of adopting new technologies. This increases the interval in which such extensive exercises can be conducted and reduces the efficacy of the entire monitoring and evaluation process. To add on to that, most of these surveys measure the status and needs of the people, but in no way account for measuring the changing aspirations of the populace. Big Data and social media can be powerful tools in the hands of the government to monitor the changing aspirations of a growing digital population and respond to them in real time. Having said that, it is absolutely essential that the privacy of the individual is maintained and respected.
Pippa Coutts, from the Alliance for Useful Evidence, and Jenny Brotchie, from Carnegie UK Trust,argue that the Scottish experience to developing participative services highlights the key role for the community and voluntary sector across the UK as both creators and champions of evidence.
Just before Christmas the ‘care crisis’ hit headlines again. For many working in the third sector the storm behind the headlines is something they are all too acutely aware of: rising demand against a backdrop of squeezed resources. A seemingly impossible context particularly when you are trying to improve lives at the same time.
Do more preventative, people focused services hold the key?
In some areas good evidence on these questions exists but it isn’t always widely accessible. In other areas we need more research and there are emerging challenges to be worked through. For example, what does robust co-produced research look like? How do we aggregate and make sense of diffuse data on individual outcomes and make best use of people’s stories? How can we best support citizens and communities to produce and consume evidence?
These are all questions which are raised in the new discussion paper The Scottish Approach to Evidence launched by the Alliance for Useful Evidence and the Carnegie UK Trust. While the paper focuses on Scotland, we think these challenges are universal and apply to anyone working to improve lives in a preventative, holistic, people-centred way.
Developing a strong and accessible evidence base
The discussion paper argues that there is a distinctly Scottish Approach to policy that emphasises participative, people-centred policies, but that a complementary approach to evidence needs to be developed to serve this policy trend.
We set out 5 steps that we think cross sectoral partners need to take to get there:
1. Strengthen the understanding and use of the outcomes approach at national and local level. Outcomes approaches are common in the charity sector in the UK, and in jurisdictional governments of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. Developing measures to assess final outcomes is often hard to do and there is a definite role for the third sector in collaboratively producing this evidence.