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.


Improving the use of knowledge in policy – an opportunity for leading public agencies — June 21, 2017

Improving the use of knowledge in policy – an opportunity for leading public agencies

By Vanesa Weyrauch 
Co-founder of Politics & Ideas 
Are you a leader in a government agency eager to improve the use of knowledge in policy?
INASP and Politics & Ideas invite government agencies[1] to participate in an opportunity to improve the use of knowledge in policy through the application of a new 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:

  1. Individual government agencies
  2. 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 diagnosis of their production and use of knowledge to inform policy
  • A document with prioritized areas for change
  • A tailored 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:

The deadline for application is: 4pm (GMT+1), 9 July 2017.

For any questions please contact crichards@inasp.info

[1] Applications are invited from organizations based in low and middle income countries in Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe and Latin America (as classified by the World Bank).

This post originally appeared on Politics & Ideas on June 12, 2017 and can be found at: http://www.politicsandideas.org/?p=3737

VakaYiko learning exchange inspires exhibition of evidence products in the Parliament of Ghana — May 2, 2017

VakaYiko learning exchange inspires exhibition of evidence products in the Parliament of Ghana

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.

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What Works Media Project Shows the Power of Film to Tell Evidence Stories — April 27, 2017

What Works Media Project Shows the Power of Film to Tell Evidence Stories

Last month at Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works Cities Summit in New York City, Results for America’s What Works Media Project premiered its first film, showcasing the power of storytelling to highlight how data and evidence can improve policymaking.
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.
An In-Depth Look at Open Data in Quito — March 24, 2017

An In-Depth Look at Open Data in Quito

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.

Impact Cycle Graphic

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.

Link Ecosystem Graphic


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Africa Evidence Network Launches New Survey — February 10, 2017

Africa Evidence Network Launches New Survey

By Ruth Stewart, Chairperson, Africa Evidence Network

The Africa Evidence Network has launched a new survey, which can be found at https://goo.gl/forms/jDaQyLzqdxwQY7Qj2.

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


Big Data and Governance — February 7, 2017

Big Data and Governance

By Ravish Bhatia

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.

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The Scottish approach: Charities have a vital role in creating informed public services — January 30, 2017

The Scottish approach: Charities have a vital role in creating informed public services

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?

Catalysed by some of these challenges, across the UK we have seen calls for, and shifts towards, more preventative and holistic public services that better support people to lead independent and fulfilled lives. See, for example, the emphasis on prevention and partnership in NHS England’s Five Year Forward Strategy.

Calls for change from within the voluntary and community sector are often particularly strong – see the essays: Making Good: The Future of the Voluntary Sector.

How do we make this shift a success?

If this shift is to be successful, the role of evidence is critical: that is understanding what works for who, when and how?

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.

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Believe in Cities: In an era of post-truth politics, local leaders are depending on data to solve problems — January 25, 2017

Believe in Cities: In an era of post-truth politics, local leaders are depending on data to solve problems

By James Anderson, who oversees Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Government Innovation programs, focused on building problem-solving capacity within local governments and spreading innovations that work.

Thirty years ago, former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo famously said: “You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose.” The phrase became not only his dictum but, in many ways the North Star of good governance.

Until this year.

The 2016 presidential campaign wasn’t exactly poetic, but at the state and local level, public servants in America’s towns and cities are continuing to govern in prose despite the divisions in our nation.

Indeed, their work might be the antidote to the growing fear that we are entering an era of “post-truth” politics, where raw emotion doesn’t merely outdo fact; it overwhelms it, seemingly to irrelevance, and with little opposition. This only creates more cynicism and less confidence, more gridlock and less belief that government can and does work.

Look at Buffalo, New York.

On any given day, you will see city employees in the city’s poorest neighborhoods hard at work. Maybe they’re up on a ladder using a chain saw to trim dangling branches. Maybe they’re handing out smoke detectors to families who don’t have them. Maybe they’re filling, both literally and metaphorically, a pothole.

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They are part of what Buffalo calls its Clean Sweep program – an initiative that is about using data to engage citizens and shape policy. Specifically, Clean Sweep crunches the data from citizen inquiries, emergency 911 calls and the census. Based on that information, the program targets the neighborhoods that need help most and better structures how that help is administered.

Buffalo is hardly alone. In Mesa, Arizona, officials recently created a “blight index” from data on crime and code violations; they’ve identified the neighborhoods with the most need and they use evidence-based decision making to redirect funding. In cities like New Orleans and Chattanooga, they are using behavioral science to sharpen outreach campaigns that aim to increase diversity in their police forces. Tulsa is one of a growing number of cities making data public and, in so doing, making government more transparent. In Providence, Rhode Island, the mayor takes city data out into the community, where he engages in robust conversations with residents about whether or not the official city stats reflect their actual experiences.

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Key Learnings from Evidence Works 2016: A Global Forum for Government — December 15, 2016

Key Learnings from Evidence Works 2016: A Global Forum for Government

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:

  1. 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.
  1. 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?
  1. 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.

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