Building Capacity to use Research Evidence (BCURE)

Building Capacity to Use Research Evidence (BCURE): Data and Evidence for Smart Policy Design is an initiative to build capacity to integrate data and research evidence into policy decision-making. With funding from the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the program investigates individual and organizational constraints to using research evidence and data, and works with local partners to systematically address these constraints in each country's context.

Policy Dialogues advance consensus around the value of evidence-based policy, and bring together key stakeholders from government, political parties, military, private sector, civil society, academia and the media to discuss key policy issues. The dialogues provide a forum for multi-directional dialogue, strategic coordination, interactive problem solving and negotiation in order to advance policy through a shared understanding of the evidence base. Evidence gaps are identified to highlight priorities for future policy research.

Shrinking Shakti
Country: India | Location: Delhi | Date: March 7, 2016
shrinking shakti

The dialogue focused on India's startlingly low female labor force participation (just 27%, and declining). Recent research shows that India’s women want to participate in the labour force at higher rates, but are constrained by a paucity of jobs and by social norms restricting their mobility. Panelists included representatives from both the public and private sectors, and from Indian as well as international organizations. It was organized in conjunction with media outlet ThePrint, along with IFMR LEAD. Read More >

Data Usage in the Punjab Economic Opportunities Policy
Country: Pakistan | Location: New Lahore | Date: July 31, 2015

This dialogue focused on data usage in the Punjab Economic Opportunities Program (PEOP). PEOP is a poverty alleviation initiative that aims to increase incomes and economic stability in low income families residing in the high poverty districts of Punjab province in Pakistan. This is one of CERP’s largest projects and is implemented by the Punjab Skills Development Fund (set up by the Government of Punjab) and supported by DFID’s Private Sector Development initiative in Pakistan. Read More >

Country: India | Location: New Delhi | Dates: April 18-19, 2015

PolicyHackIn one of the first events of its kind in India, PolicyHack brought together developers, software engineers, policy makers, representatives from academia, and government partners to work through real-world challenges posed by government agencies and non-profit organizations. Twenty four teams from across the country competed in five different “policy tracks” to create new tools to improve the delivery of government services to the people of India. Read More >

Economic Growth and Environmental Protection through Evidence Based Policy
Country: India  |  Location: New Delhi  |  Dates: July 31, 2014

Economig Growth and Environmental Change Policy Dialogue, DelhiThis workshop brought together leading regulators, industrialists and researchers to drive the creation of new environmental policy to meet both goals of economic growth and environmental protection. Sessions covered the frontier of regulation today: Advanced monitoring systems, Information disclosure and Emissions trading. Read More >

Civil Service Reform in Pakistan
Country: Pakistan  |  Location: Lahore, Punjab  |  Dates: March 20-21, 2014

EPoD and CERP co-host Policy Dialogue on Civil Service Reform in Lahore, PakistanAt the National School of Public Policy in Lahore, Pakistan, over 130 participants came together for a two-day dialogue on Civil Service Reform in Pakistan, as part of EPoD’s Building Capacity to Use Research Evidence (BCURE) program. The event promoted researcher and policymaker collaboration by highlighting Asim Kwhaja, Ben Olken and Adnan Khan’s Property Tax Project in the Punjab. Read More >







The program is led by Evidence for Policy Design in partnership with a consortium of local implementing organizations and policy counterparts; local partners will take full leadership of all activities by the end of the three-year grant period to ensure sustainability. Our implementing partners include the Center for Economic Research in Pakistan and IFMR LEAD. Policy partners include a range of leading public agencies and non-profit organizations working in key policy areas across the three countries.

BCURE is funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID)

UK aid

BCURE's Strategic Purpose

Greater use of data and research evidence by policymakers has the potential to dramatically improve policy outcomes and contribute to poverty reduction and enhanced socioeconomic wellbeing. But for policy decisions to be grounded in evidence, policymakers must have the technical capabilities as well as the incentives and motivation to access, appraise and apply data and evidence.

EPoD's Approach

Evidence for Policy Design was initially awarded a three-year contract by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) to carry out a comprehensive capacity-building program to increase the use of rigorous data and research evidence by policymakers in India and Pakistan. Recognizing that evidence use is grounded upon a shared recognition of its value across policy networks, our program seeks to build a "culture of evidence" where using evidence to inform policy becomes the norm among a broad set of policy actors.  We are now expanding to other countries in the region, in order to leverage BCURE training and resources for other contexts where policy makers are seeking to increase their use of data and evidence to improve policy outcomes.

Our innovative assessment activities map the policy process to determine where data and evidence can make inroads. They evaluate hypotheses drawn from the fields of organizational science, psychology, behavioral economics, and political science. Working with civil service training academies and policy partners, the assessment work examines the individual, organizational, and institutional factors that influence the use of evidence in policy making.

Individual Constraints Assessment
One key assumption underpinning evidence-based policymaking is that when provided with data and research evidence, policymakers will update their views and decisionmaking accordingly. However, this is just an assumption: we know very little about how or whether evidence induces policymakers to adjust their beliefs. It is also challenging to clearly elicit actual behavior (as compared to self-reported use of evidence) in a classic survey setting. The individual constraints assessment was designed to address this question. It employed a lab experiment methodology to explore how different types of evidence influence civil servants' beliefs and policy preferences.

Organization Constraints Assessment
The organizational constraints assessment aimed to understand organizational-level constraints to government effectiveness through the lens of tax administration. The study involved in-depth, qualitative interviews conducted with tax administrators from a diverse set of countries: Bangladesh, Burundi, Chile, India, Liberia, Pakistan, Rwanda, South Korea, Tanzania, and Uganda. The results showed that these countries suffer from common organizational constraints, including inadequate knowledge and training, insufficient staff, lack of centralized information, and inadequate IT.

Training Needs Assessment
The training needs assessment was designed to provide EPoD with rigorous evidence to answer the following questions: what do learners think of data and evidence, how do they use them, and what is the best way to build an effective curriculum for them? By surveying mid- and senior-level civil servants from Pakistan’s National School of Public Policy (NSPP) and India’s Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA), we were able to gain an understanding of civil servants’ training needs. The results informed the thinking and design of the BCURE training modules.

Civil servants are often presented with different forms of evidence from diverse sources and required to make decisions quickly, without the benefit of extensive review or analysis. Developing skills for critically assessing the quality and applicability of common evidence types — and making sense of conflicting information — is key to building capacity for systematic use of evidence. Decision-makers also play an important role in the generation of new evidence, by identifying evidence gaps and commissioning data collection and research. The training component of the BCURE-Harvard program aims to equip policy decision-makers with practical skills and frameworks for effectively applying data and evidence in their work.


Training Model: Our training courses leverage a cutting edge digital training platform in which individual learners interact at their own pace with key material in a digital unit in a blended learning model. This tool builds on recent developments in pedagogical methods as well as a participatory diagnosis of training needs. Each unit is then paired with an in-class session, such as a case study discussion, which reinforces the concepts learned in the unit.  For in-person courses, this material is complemented by lectures utilizing EPoD's Smart Policy Design framework and other content aimed at giving decision-makers the tools to more effectively use evidence to inform policy. 

Audience: The content is accessible and relevant for a high-level decision-maker who needs to be able to consume, aggregate and commission evidence on relevant policy topics.

Sustainability and Scale: By using a blended learning approach, online components provide a foundational structure for flexible and complementary in-class delivery. This ensures that in-class instruction can be tailored to the specific context of each training activity. A Training of Trainers workshop, held in Cambridge in February 2016, prepared a new generation of trainers – workshop alumni have now deployed the BCURE Harvard materials in India, Pakistan, and Nepal.

As training activities expand across the South Asia region, the library of in-class exercises has likewise been expanded to include country- and topic-specific cases for other countries in the region. We will continue enriching the materials themselves, while experimenting with a variety of in-class activity models.

Training Units

 Systematic Approaches to Policy Decisions

This unit reviews alternative approaches to systematic decision making—including cost- benefit analysis, decision analysis, and policy analysis matrices—exploring the role of evidence in each of these frameworks, and the ways in which routine use of evidence can lead to more effective policy decisions.

 Becoming an Effective Consumer of Descriptive Evidence

Descriptive evidence is an important but often neglected form of evidence. The goal in this unit is to improve participants’ ability to assess evidence aimed at characterizing a policy situation. Particular attention will be paid to the role of sampling and its implications for drawing conclusions from the data.

 Becoming an Effective Consumer of Impact Evaluations
This unit motivates the use of impact evaluation as a key input to policy decision-making, and helps government officials become more informed decision-makers by introducing five critical questions you should ask when consuming an impact evaluation.
 Becoming an Effective Consumer of Cost-Benefit Analyses

Cost-benefit analysis is a framework to compare policy decisions in a wide range of areas. In this unit, we will introduce fundamental concepts in cost-benefit analysis, such as the social discount rate, describe various methodologies used to estimate costs and benefits, and highlight common assumptions.

 Aggregating Evidence

Policymakers often navigate multiple conflicting sources of evidence related to a particular policy problem. This unit provides methods to critically aggregate these pieces of evidence – synthesizing data by taking into account quality and external validity, the type of evidence most needed, and the predictions of theory.

 Becoming an Effective Commissioner of Evidence
Because the necessary evidence to support policy decisions is not always available, this unit focuses on commissioning new evidence. We present a framework for determining the specific policy questions for which new evidence should be sought, and for identifying what form of evidence would best answer those questions.

BCURE Pilot Projects

To support a demand-driven approach to evidence-based policy, high-potential ‘proof of concept’ pilot projects demonstrated the value of data and evidence through hands-on capacity building, while simultaneously creating innovative and effective ways for policy actors to utilize data and research evidence to improve their decision making.

Projects joined policy/program teams with researchers to facilitate a hands-on experience and active learning by end beneficiaries while demonstrating the practical value of data and evidence for policy decisions.

Smart Data: Can visualized data help inform and hold public stakeholders accountable?
Country: India  |  Policy Partner: Indian Ministry of Rural Development
This project created web-based interactive data visualizations to present administrative data from India’s public works program (MGNREGA) in a way that is easily digestible, lends itself to exploration, and provides a clear link to required action for administrators. The dashboards are now being evaluated to understand which designs and mix of target recipients are most appropriate to improve MGNREGA implementation. Read More

Increasing property tax collection efficiency with interactive web-based data visualization technology
Country: Pakistan  |  Policy Partner: Excise and Taxation Department, Government of Punjab
This project has produced a website that can serve as a data visualization and monitoring tool for the Excise and Taxation Department in the Government of Punjab, Pakistan. The tool enables supervisors in the department to better monitor progress in recovery, track increases in Net-Demand, analyze trends in revenue increase and help develop targeted strategies to improve property tax collection. Read More
Customized server-side solution to improve information disclosure at GPCB
Country: India  |  Policy Partner: Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB)
This project has developed a customized server-side application with the Gujarat Pollution Control Board to analyze data collected from new Continuous Emissions Monitoring Systems (CEMS) being installed in industrial plants across much of the state of Gujarat. 
Using smartphones, dashboards, and innovations to wage contracts to extend polio vaccination
Country: Pakistan  |  Policy Partner: Punjab Department of Health and the Extended Program for Immunizations
Using smartphones, dashboards, and innovations to wage contracts to extend polio vaccinationThis project pilot tested two complementary approaches to improve the performance of polio eradication teams in Pakistan. First, it used insights from behavioral economics to design pay for performance contracts to the polio campaign workers. The contracts imposed a penalty on procrastination to increase the number of vaccinations performed by workers in a given day. Second, the project used a digital monitoring system. It required each worker to record geo and time-stamped photographic evidence of the number of vaccinations performed, which can be viewed by senior managers through an online system in real time.