Data and Evidence for Smart Policy Design is a three year engagement in South Asia to build capacity to integrate data and research evidence into policy decision-making. With funding from the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the project 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.
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).
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.
Evidence for Policy Design has been 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. 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.
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 platform uses a blended learning model, in which individual learners interact at their own pace with key material in a digital unit rather than through a classroom lecture. Each unit is then paired with an in-class session, such as a case study discussion, which reinforces the concepts learned in the unit.
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. The 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 countries such as Bangladesh and Nepal. We will continue enriching the materials themselves, while experimenting with a variety of in-class activity models.
To support a demand-driven approach to evidence-based policy, our pilot projects demonstrate the value of data and evidence through hands-on capacity building. They create innovative, effective ways for policy actors to utilize data and research evidence to improve their decisionmaking. Projects form policy/program teams with researchers to facilitate a hands-on experience while demonstrating the practical value of data and evidence for policy decisions. Several of our pilot projects are highlighted in cases below.