Likewise, we need funders who don’t take for granted that quality research will make its way into policymaking. Rather we encourage funders to be curious about the barriers that hinder uptake of evidence and invest in helping overcome them. Funders often orient portfolios around evidence types: sector-specific research projects or impact evaluations; open data, data science, or official statistics. Rarely do they look across their portfolios and consider supporting efforts that would allow all these programs to have more impact, such as helping strengthen the capacities, incentives, and institutional systems that determine whether the evidence they fund will get used by government officials to inform decisions.
Ideally this community of funders can also be deliberate about coordination and avoiding duplication. Our consultations revealed a small set of funding organizations interested in exploring light coordination, at the very least in sharing learning, keeping tabs on each other’s strategies and grantmaking, and maybe eventually co-creating some type of coordinated effort.
Our next steps
Where does all this learning leave us? We started this journey thinking about big new things we might do to strengthen the EIP field. We are ending it with a back-to-basics mindset and some humbler questions. We would like to hear from you about how these field-building basics relate to your work and how you respond to the questions below.
To us, the basics include:
Invest in institutions: Fundamentally, a field is a set of governmental and non-governmental institutions and the nature of how they work together. The heart of our work is supporting non-governmental organizations, many of whom work very closely with governmental institutions, to increase the use of evidence by governments. We will continue to provide flexible funding that allows organizations to respond to compelling opportunities, to start new initiatives and partnerships, and to position themselves to have lasting impact beyond the duration of individual projects. We will do a better job of supporting our grantees to capture and share their learning in ways that will benefit other researchers, practitioners, scholars, government technocrats, political leaders, and champions for evidence-informed policymaking.
Provide catalytic support: In addition to longer-term support for organizations, we can move fast, flexible, targeted resources in response to emerging opportunities, especially those related to advocacy, strategic planning, convening, and launching multi-stakeholder initiatives.
Make connections and foster learning: The Twitter mapping hints at the role that funders can play in making connections across communities. We will continue to connect excellent people and institutions that might benefit from knowing about each other’s work. We will do a better job understanding and using the language of others – bridging to them, rather than imposing our own new framing on them.
Find and support positive deviance: Rather than trying to orchestrate globally-coordinated initiatives, we can look for positive deviance that fortifies the field. We can identify and support those who are already bridging across communities, addressing the systemic barriers to evidence use, sharing frank learning, communicating well, taking the long view, or taking evidence principles into existing initiatives.