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!