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.
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 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.
In July 2016, EPoD held a training for members of the Nepali civil service and faculty from the Nepal Administrative Staff College (NASC). The training taught participants to systematically apply important principals of policy evaluation and data analysis to help them better interpret and apply evidence relevant to policy formulation and program implementation. Read more about the training here.
In August 2016, EPoD and the Center for Economic Research in Pakistan (CERP) led the inaugural Innovative Leadership in the Age of Data (ILEAD) training course for senior Pakistani leaders across a variety of sectors. The course focused on enabling organizational change through building a culture of data-driven innovation.
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.
|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.
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, the EPoD team has developed high-potential ‘proof of concept’ pilot projects which demonstrate 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.
The pilot 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. BCURE case studies tell the stories of these collaborations – they explain the background issues, and reveal the approach the teams took and the lessons they learned.
|Data transparency in India's flagship social protection program|
|Country: India | Policy Partner: Indian Ministry of Rural Development|
|Can taking open administrative data and packaging it in a readable and actionable form help governments move from being passively “open” to actively transparent? This pilot project increased data usability through web-based interactive data visualizations to increase accountability in the world’s largest workfare program. |
|Improving industrial monitoring to cut air pollution in India|
|Country: India | Policy Partner: Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB)|
|A device that will let regulators monitor factory emissions data in real time promises to be an invaluable weapon in India’s fight against air pollution. But to test it, a team of researchers and policymakers had to overcome a variety of obstacles, from securing resources to designing technology to addressing the behavior of the actors involved. |
|Motivating public servant performance in Punjab, Pakistan|
|Country: Pakistan | Policy Partner: Punjab Department of Health and the Extended Program for Immunizations|
In the context of a polio vaccination drive, can switching from paper-based to digital data systems enable managers to monitor health workers’ progress more precisely and motivate them to achieve higher coverage? This project piloted a new smartphone app and demonstrated how quality information, when strategically employed, may swiftly improve governance.
|Optimizing skills training programs in South Asia|
|Country: India & Pakistan | Policy Partner: Indian Ministry of Rural Development & Punjab Skills Development Fund|
Skills training programs could bring South Asia’s women the jobs they need for greater independence and increased quality of life – and boost the economy at the same time. Through this pilot project, a research team worked with government partners to examine women’s opportunities through training and helped identify potential female-friendly solutions for future testing.
|Insights on methodology for India's governmental auditors|
|Country: India | Policy Partner: Comptroller and Auditor General, Government of India|
In working with India’s Comptroller and Auditor General’s office, EPoD researchers provided hands-on advising and training on advanced methods of data collection and analysis for lead governmental watchdogs. Not only did this pilot project yield several concrete recommendations, it supported a movement toward rigorous data analytics already underway in the organization.
|Increasing property tax collection efficiency with interactive web-based data visualization technology|
|Country: Pakistan | Policy Partner: Excuse 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 the Case Study. Read more about the project.