Quote of the week
“…real change will come when politicians see evidence and evaluation as ways of helping them entrench policies.”
— Report from the Institute for Governance, UK
Continuing the ongoing discussion on evidence and evaluation in policymaking, the U.K. Institute for Governance, the Alliance for Useful Evidence and the National Institute of Economic and Social Research explored this issue in a series of seminars between February and May.
They ended up framing the discussion around the concepts of supply and demand.
On the supply side, their deliberations decided that research is often not timely enough. They found that many policies designed by government do not lend themselves to proper evaluation, and that there is too often a lack of good data, inside or outside government, to set the stage for good research or outcomes.
The arguments on the demand side will be familiar to Canadian public servants who bemoan the lack of evidence-based policymaking here.
The seminars concluded that there was often a mismatch between the “timeliness and helpfulness” of policy evidence and political timelines and needs. Another challenge is that political decisions are frequently based on values rather than outcomes, and that a response based on evidence can bring political risk. Finally, the participants agreed that there wasn’t a strong culture of rigorous policymaking in many government departments, and too often a reluctance to collaborate with outside organizations to improve the product.
Not surprisingly, the U.K. deliberations decided real change will come when politicians see the value of evidence and evaluation in helping them create policies that have lasting value. In other words, the value of evidence and evaluation will become evident to politicians in files where they want to move beyond short-term political expediency to real, lasting change.