What to Read this Month
“If policymakers or those who support policy processes are interested in supporting evidence use and innovation during policymaking, they would be wise to consider amplifying the heterogeneity in a network by adding new actors from diverse backgrounds and finding ways for them to interact with other network actors.”
The authors explore the association between evidence use and policy network structure in Burkina Faso and suggest that heterogenous networks comprising different actors and organizations are likely to increase the use of evidence and policy innovation.
“Geospatial impact evaluations (GIEs) use precisely georeferenced intervention data and outcome data to establish a counterfactual retroactively, eliminating the need to randomly assign individuals, firms, or communities into treatment and control groups at the outset of a program.”
A short article describing how USAID used geospatial data to understand the impact of a $900 million investment in rural infrastructure in the West Bank/Gaza. The evaluation team found strong evidence that local economic output, as measured by remotely sensed nighttime light intensity, increased as a result of the rural infrastructure program. The authors highlight GIEs as a promising approach for rigorously evaluating programs in fragile states where the collection of baseline and endline data is challenging and costly.
“Nevertheless, the process has taken a relatively long time and has required a very substantial body of evidence generated from interventions reliably funded by donors motivated for change, the implementation of multiple knowledge transfers strategies, the efforts of collective and individual political entrepreneurs, effective and patient advocacy coalitions, aided by a major window of opportunity that they seized and used to good effect.”
The authors – a researcher and policymaker team – conducted a reflective analysis of a major change in health financing policy in Burkina Faso between 2008 and 2018, which they supported in their respective roles. They share practical lessons for strengthening evidence-informed decision making, including the importance of: persistent and consistent production of rigorous and useful knowledge; fostering early interaction and engagement between the research and decision making communities; understanding the political and socio-economic context in which decisions are made; and seizing windows of opportunity for change.
“Without these forms of documentation, population statistics – which inform a range of policy decisions – are incomplete at best, and wrong at worst. Many low-income countries base their poverty estimates on data that is more than a decade old.”
The authors make a compelling case for policymakers to invest in data that help inform critical decisions like where to build schools or direct medical resources, and to make that data publicly accessible so that communities and social entrepreneurs can help identify solutions that work. “Policymaking without high-quality public data is governing by guesswork,” they write.

“In the current context of low priority, and weak institutional support and technical capacity to enable evidence use in decision making and debate in African parliaments, the network’s activities respond to some of the key barriers hindering parliamentarians from using evidence in their work.”
The authors describe their research to understand the contribution of the Network of African Parliamentary Committees on Health (NEAPACOH) to the evidence ecosystem in African parliaments. Annual network meetings serve as a platform for sharing evidence and building demand and capacity for increased use, strengthening partnerships between MPs and researchers, as well as creating a sense of accountability and competition for following through on commitments made each year. An additional key insight from their research is the importance of creating a mechanism for sharing forward commitments made at annually held regional workshops with national parliaments to make better progress in realizing them.


What We’re Working On


How are public sector officials incentivized to use evidence routinely in their work, whether to inform major policies and decisions, design or alter programs, or guide implementation? Our new series highlights strategies that government agencies around the world have used to create incentives for using evidence in decision making. Take a look at our first five case studies from Mexico, Sierra Leone, and South Africa!


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