Evidence-based policymaking: What is it? How does it work? What relevance for developing countries?

Evidence-based policymaking: What is it? How does it work? What relevance for developing countries?

Evidence-based policy (EBP). is a discourse or set of methods which informs the policy process, rather than aiming to directly affect the eventual goals of the policy. It advocates a more rational, rigorous and
systematic approach. The pursuit of EBP is based on the premise that policy decisions should be better informed by available evidence and should include rational analysis. This is because policy which is based on systematic evidence is seen to produce better outcomes. The approach has also come to incorporate evidence-based practices.

The aim of this work is to identify lessons and approaches from EBP in the UK which may be valuable to developing countries. The issues, approaches and tools presented are based on the assumption that the reader is a progressive policymaker in a developing country, who is interested in utilising EBP. The focus is on policymakers within the public sector, rather than those working within the private sector or civil

This paper highlights three main issues surrounding the use of EBP:

  • what evidence is used in the policymaking process?  - what is clear from the literature is that policy should be informed by a wide breadth of evidence, not just hard research. Key issues include the quality, credibility, relevance and the cost of the policy 
  • how evidence is incorporated into policymaking - policy processes ideally involve different stages, from agenda-setting to formulation to implementation. Evidence therefore has the potential to influence the policymaking process at each stage. However different evidence and
    different mechanisms may be required at each of the policy stages
  • evidence is not the only factor which influences policymaking - it is important to acknowledge that at each stage of the policy cycle, a number of different factors will also affect policy. This occurs both at an individual level – for example, a policymaker’s own experience, expertise and judgement – and at an institutional level, for example in terms of institutional capacity. There are also a number of constraints, which will limit the extent to which evidence can affect policy, such as the pressure to process information quickly. Policymaking is neither objective
    nor neutral; it is an inherently political process


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