INASP’s approach to supporting evidence use recognises the need to go beyond skills development, addressing the broad range of organisational and systemic factors that affect whether and how evidence is used on an ongoing basis
By Emily Hayter and Verity Warne
Embedding evidence use in organisations, relationships, and policy-making
INASP’s journey in the evidence informed policy sector started more than ten years ago. Their focus grew towards users of evidence, first working on initiatives aimed at building civil servants’ skills in accessing, appraising, and using evidence. Now, INASP knows that supporting evidence use is not only about skills, but also about the broad range of organisational and systemic factors that affect whether and how evidence is used on an ongoing basis, from the political economy context to organisational cultures, planning systems and budgeting frameworks within government agencies.
A Framework to navigate evidence challenges
The process of change is complex: organisational factors are bigger, messier, longer term and can be more difficult to measure. This means that many people interested in this space approach organisational change through skills and training, missing other entry points.
INASP’s work with the BCURE programme and experience in supporting governments to use evidence for policy, pointed to a need for better understanding of the factors affecting evidence use within organisations. To address this need, INASP worked with Politics & Ideas (now Purpose & Ideas) to develop the Context Matters Framework drawing on a literature review, interviews with more than 50 policymakers around the world, and a compilation of practical examples from governments which have taken steps to improve evidence use. The diagnostic framework combines elements of political economy analysis, organisational assessment, and knowledge systems analysis to help navigate the complexity of the evidence challenges government organisations are facing and identify concrete entry points for change.
Importantly, the framework supports a problem-driven rather than solutions-focused approach, with a focus on adaptation and learning, drawing inspiration from models of problem driven iterative adaptation (PDIA) and state capability.
While the importance of seeing capacity in context is well recognised, it is hard to translate this understanding into action within development projects. The Context Matters Framework supports INASP to understand how these factors manifest in specific organisations, at a particular moment in time.
The framework has been used to support participatory diagnostic process for organisational change in government and other agencies across 3 continents – including with Secretariat of Public Administration (SPA) in Peru; in Ghana with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); and in South Asia and East Pacific with UNICEF Office of Research-Innocenti. INASP has shared its approach to using the framework via workshops and ‘masterclasses’ for a variety of collaborators including the International Network for Government Science Advice, Ethiopian Academy of Sciences, and European Union. It has also informed INASP’s work with the African Centre for Parliamentary Affairs , and features as a framing methodology in a new volume of case studies on evidence use in Africa from CLEAR-AA.
Approaches from the Context Matters framework have continued to inform INASP’s work across other programmes – including Strengthening the Use of Evidence for Development Impact (SEDI), where it is currently being adapted for a collaboration with the Office of the Prime Minister in Uganda.
Beyond the Context Matters Framework
As INASP’s approach to supporting the capacity for evidence use has evolved, there have been three main shifts in their work: the EIP and governance sectors have started to move more closely together; meanwhile the EIP space has been growing, especially in Africa; and INASP has kept a broad view of evidence systems but deepened their understanding of specific components of this. The interest in organisational change in the public sector has pushed INASP outside a traditionally researcher-driven space to learn more from those working on governance and institutional reform, as well as from policymakers themselves. INASP has:
1. Taken a multidimensional approach to capacity development:
- Approaching capacity development through 3 lenses: individual, organisational and systems
- exploring where approaches and techniques from governance (e.g., PEA, PDIA) intersect with its evidence work
- working to improve their understanding of how gender and equity issues are interwoven throughout this picture.
2. Been looking more closely at their own role:
- Building effective and equitable partnerships by consulting with partners to gather feedback on partnership approaches and improve their own capacity.
- Developing an internal Gender and Diversity Hub, to guide discussion on power and equity issues within the organisation.
- Engaging with the wide range of INASP EIPM partnerships and collaborations to review how best they can contribute to the sector.
3. Taken time to adapt and learn:
- Recognizing the wealth and depth of expertise within the AEN community, INASP has benefited from the informal advice and insights of AEN members, for example, facilitating a recent consultation within the SEDI programme with leaders in the space on their experience and advice on strengthening capacity for evidence use.
INASP wants to:
- Continue to deepen its understanding of organisational change, especially in different types of government organisations, different sectors, and different levels of government.
- Understand better how evidence use is affected by gender and equity factors.
- Understand how technology enhanced learning can be used as a capacity development approach with government bodies to address some of these issues.
INASP is also keen to talk to AEN members about its new organisational strategy and they would love to hear their thoughts and discuss how they can collaborate.
In a nutshell
INASP’s approach to supporting evidence use recognises the need to go beyond skills development, addressing the broad range of organisational and systemic factors that affect whether and how evidence is used on an ongoing basis, from the political economy context to organisational cultures, planning systems and budgeting frameworks within government agencies.
Emily Hayter is a senior programme specialist leading INASP’s work on evidence-informed policy-making and global platforms for equitable knowledge ecosystems. She has more than 10 years' experience in programme design and management, as well as capacity development/adult learning and research.
Verity Warne is the director of communications and engagement at INASP. Verity joined INASP in January 2017. She has more than 20 years' experience of strategic marketing and communication in the field of research communications. She is responsible for directing and implementing INASP's marketing and communication strategy.