It takes a village….(to get evidence into use)

The keynote speaker for the conference, Ian Goldman, talked about the importance of understanding the decision-makers’ point of view when pushing for better use of evidence, alongside the role of other actors in the ‘evidence ecosystem’. Ian is Acting Deputy Director General and Head of Evaluation and Research at the South African Presidency’s Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME).

Ian speaks often about the need to consider both evidence supply and demand, as well as units such as the DPME as ‘evidence broker’. Their job, he says, is to help create the supply of rigorous evidence, but also make sure it is available in the right form, in the right place, at the right time, and to ensure that appropriate preparation is done and relationships built to help ensure that the evidence is used. These ‘internal evidence brokers’ are mirrored by external brokers, and he advocated that more be done to connect the two communities.

There is a growing body of evidence about how to support, encourage and mandate decisionmakers to ‘get better’ at using evidence in their work. This attention to the ‘demand side’ is important, and welcome. It follows around a decade of handing the responsibilities to the knowledge generators – requiring researchers and evaluators to communicate and engage effectively with policymakers, without looking at what happens when the audience either doesn’t want to know, or is afraid to ask.

The DFID-funded ‘Building Capacity to Use Research Evidence’ (BCURE) programme is one of the weightiest programmes supporting the demand side (you can find an overview on Duncan Green’s From Poverty to Power blog. There have also been some valuable lessons generated through an accompanying evaluation including a good (read brief) Evaluation Briefing containing six insights into why decisionmakers don’t use evidence, and what can be done about it.

Progress has also been made by bringing people together (a bit like #AfricaEvidence!) to talk openly about the politics of how research-based evidence is (or is not) used in policy-making: what factors influence decision-makers? What systems help or hinder research use? And how can the development community support robust evidence-informed policy-making?

Ian’s powerpoint presentation can be found below:

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