This constant evolution in both knowledge and policy priorities has been particularly rapid in the context of the pandemic but is not unique to it. For example, the World Bank’s Agriculture in Africa: Telling Facts from Myths initiative unpacks 15 commonly held beliefs about the agriculture sector in Africa, explaining where knowledge and evidence have evolved but practice has yet to catch up. For both government decision-makers and external data and evidence partners, this constant evolution means that using evidence must be an ongoing, routine, iterative, institutionalized practice.
Fostering an ongoing practice of evidence use within governments benefits both government officials and their non-governmental evidence partners. For governments, routine use of data and evidence to inform decisions can optimize scarce resources and lead to positive outcomes for people. As evidence use becomes more the norm, it can also make it easier for outside groups, such as think tanks or impact evaluation organizations, to promote the uptake of their research, or form new partnerships with government partners.
So, what role can outside groups play in changing how governments work with evidence?
The Hewlett Foundation’s EIP grantee partners are testing four approaches to fostering routine evidence use among government partners. They are working to strengthen the capacities, systems, and incentives inside governments to use evidence and data. They are also facilitating external communities of practice that support and nudge government partners in their use of evidence.