By Karen Anderson and Abeba Taddese, Results for All
Governments around the globe are exploring ways to build and incentivize demand for the use of data and evidence to inform policymaking. They range in their use of evidence, their organizational capacity and their resource availability. But policymakers, both inside and outside of government, face the common challenge of moving beyond the collection of data and production of evidence to better understanding how data and evidence can be used to improve outcomes.
An abundance of information exists about best practices and models for evidence production—collecting data and evaluating programs. Less information exists about how to spur policymaker demand for evidence, and the types of organizational processes and practices that play an influential role in promoting the use of data and evidence by policymakers.
Earlier this fall, Results for All partnered with the UK’s Alliance for Useful Evidence to host Evidence Works 2016: A Global Forum for Government. Our goal with this event was to bring together high-level policymakers from around the world—both the global north and the global south—to share experiences, including challenges, solutions and lessons learned, in establishing and implementing strategic approaches for promoting evidence-informed policymaking.
On September 29-30, approximately 140 policymakers from almost 40 countries participated in the London-based conference for two-days of roundtable discussions and smaller working group meetings across a range of topics. The full Summary Report from the meeting can be found here.
Key takeaways and questions raised during the event included the following:
- Government needs a diversity of evidence. No single type of evidence will answer all government challenges and we need a range of approaches to assess what works.
- The issue of independence versus proximity in evidence production is an ongoing question among policymakers. To maintain credibility, is there value in keeping some distance between evidence production and the government leaders who will use that evidence?
- Talking about evidence can be challenging. In complicated political climates and complex country cultures, how can policymakers best communicate about evidence, both positive and negative findings, to improve outcomes without jeopardizing the very programs they hope to improve? This is a common challenge in both the global north and the global south, with a variety of first step approaches offered by a multitude of participants.