The Global Landscape Review is here! — July 25, 2017

The Global Landscape Review is here!

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.

The landscape review is accompanied by resource tables and a series of case studies on evidence-informed policymaking training in Ghana, demographic dividend policies in Kenya, and a community safety strategy in Canada. Our goal for this body of work that identifies more than 100 strategies and mechanisms for advancing the use of data and evidence in government policy and practice, is to promote a sharing of experiences and lessons learned among leaders in government, NGOs and other partners.

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 Action blog 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.

Thanks for reading!

 

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Observations from the Outgoing Executive Director — July 5, 2017

Observations from the Outgoing Executive Director

By Karen Anderson

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.

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Outgoing Results for All Executive Director Karen Anderson (center) talks to two participants at the 2016 Evidence Works Forum for Government in London.

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.