100+ Government Mechanisms to Advance the Use of Data and Evidence in Policymaking: A Landscape Review

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The team at Results for America has produced this report, and CLEAR and many of CLEAR's partners are mentioned in the report.

Link to the full report: http://results4america.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Landscape_int_FINAL-2.pdf

 

Executive Summary

Governments across the globe face pressure to improve how they allocate and spend resources and deliver public goods and services. Increasingly engaged citizens are demanding transparent, accountable governments that are responsive to citizen demands. Data and evidence are important tools for understanding how to prioritize and allocate limited resources to reflect the needs of communities.

Despite the increased availability of data and evidence in many countries, the use of information and analysis to inform policy and improve the welfare of populations remains limited. Reasons include a shortage of resources, lack of commitment from political leadership, gaps in technical skills, and an absence of clearly defined strategies and mechanisms to support sharing and use of data and evidence.

This review surveys the strategies and mechanisms that governments across the globe are using to advance and institutionalize the use of data and evidence in policymaking. The aim of the report is to compile examples that show the range of approaches governments are taking to build capacity for promoting evidence-informed policymaking (EIP) at the individual, organizational, and institutional levels.

Evidence-informed policymaking is influenced by the combination of a broader enabling context, organizational capacity to facilitate production, use and dissemination of data and evidence, and policymaker knowledge, skill, and motivation to use data and evidence (Newman, Fisher, & Shaxson, 2012). These areas, which we have also found to be key contributing factors to the use of data and evidence in policymaking through our research, correspond to the strategies and mechanisms identified in this landscape review.

We highlight 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. Factors that contribute to the use of data and evidence are access to high-quality data and relevant evidence, partnerships and collaborations between the policy community and evidence producers, and policymaker knowledge, skill, and motivation.

In summary, the main observations resulting from this review are as follows:

Governments around the world are using a mix of strategies and mechanisms to promote the use of data and evidence. Approaches range from research units to big data analytics, performance management systems, citizen engagement platforms, information clearinghouses, and training programs to enhance knowledge and build skills of policymakers. While individual capacity and motivation are critical, formal organizational and institutional mechanisms and strategies help secure a foundation that can withstand transition between leadership and political parties.

Most of the government strategies and mechanisms reviewed here are recent initiatives, introduced in the last five to seven years. This suggests a growing, but nascent movement to improve the use of data and evidence in policy.

Evidence-informed policymaking operates within a broad political framework. Many factors contribute to EIP, including commitment from political leadership; state power structures; resource levels for data collection, research, and evaluation; and broader values and beliefs surrounding the use of data and evidence.

There is no simple, one size fits all approach to advancing evidence-informed policymaking. Evidence-informed policymaking is not about a specific approach or type of evidence but rather about finding ways to make better use of data and evidence in decision making (Porter, 2011). It is more of an art than a science, and the specific path or approach countries take will depend on individual contexts.

Government efforts to institute EIP seem to be focused largely on improving access to quality data and evidence. There appears to be an emphasis in government on building systems and platforms for collecting data and evidence and improving access to it.

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) play a key role in supporting government efforts to build demand for the use of data and evidence in policymaking. Many of the interventions aimed at building policymaker demand for data and evidence—knowledge and skill building, facilitating collaboration between policymakers and evidence producers—are driven and funded by NGOs.

Partnerships and learning and exchange opportunities can play a key role in advancing the use of data and evidence in government. This review found a concentration of mechanisms for promoting use of data and evidence at the national level. It would be beneficial to find ways in which learning, experiences, or expertise in using data and evidence can be shared with subnational governments that have organizational capacity constraints and limited access to data. We note high demand for learning and partnership opportunities at the regional or country level to advance a practical sharing of experiences and lessons learned in evidence-informed policymaking.