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Key recommendations

Important ways to strengthen a culture of evidence-based policymaking include:

Allow and acknowledge unofficial data in addition to data collected by national statistical offices and government administration
  • Develop capacity of organizations that collect unofficial data, such as universities, institutes, think tanks, labour unions, political parties and NGOs
  • Develop national communities of practice on governance data and analysis
  • Develop capacity and fund nationally based academics and research institutions
  • Create and strengthen arenas and forums that debate governance evidence, such as annual journals and conferences
  • Strengthen the use of evidence in planning, budgeting, monitoring and evaluation
  • Strengthen the accessibility and relevance of governance data to government, parliamentarians and decision makers
  • Strengthen the role of collecting and analyzing evidence in government reforms
  • Develop capacity of national statistical offices
  • Strengthen the independence and legitimacy of national statistical offices
  • Communicate and disseminate governance evidence to potential users with a strategic interest in the data
  • Strengthen participatory budgeting and monitoring
  • Train journalists and the media in assessing, using and presenting data

Alternatives to evidence-based policymaking

 

Evidence-based policymaking is essential for guaranteeing that policies are designed and actions taken to respond to the needs and demands of society, and that they are not based on assumptions or beliefs. Several alternatives to evidence-based policymaking exist, all of which can be detrimental if they do not promote or help establish policymaking procedures that are democratic, respectful of human rights, and accountable. These include:

  • Experience, expertise and judgment: One group of factors that clearly influences policy and practice is the experience, expertise and judgment of decision makers. These factors often constitute valuable human and intellectual capital and include the tacit knowledge identified as an important element of policymaking. Consequently, a major goal of evidence-based policy is to ensure that policymaking integrates the experience, expertise and judgement of decision makers with the information in the governance assessment.
  • Values: Policymaking also takes place within the context of values, including ideology and political beliefs. Political ideology is a major driving force of policymaking and is in no way made redundant by a commitment to evidence-based policy. Political ideologies have always been subjected to close critical appraisal and analysis, using both philosophical and empirical methods. The tension between values, ideology and beliefs on the one hand, and sound empirical evidence on the other, is the very core of contemporary politics in open democratic societies and is unlikely to disappear because of the advent of evidence-based policy.
  • Habit and tradition: Habit and tradition are also important influences on policymaking. Political institutions such as parliament, the civil service and the judiciary are steeped in traditional and habitual ways of doing things, some of which defy rational explanation in the 21st Century.
  • Lobbyists, pressure groups and consultants: The lobby system, pressure groups and consultants are other factors competing with evidence to influence policymaking and policy implementation. Think tanks, opinion leaders and the media represent other major influences. The ways in which these groups work to influence policy can be underestimated and misunderstood by proponents of evidence-based policy and practice. It is not that these groups fail to use evidence to promote particular policies, programmes or projects; rather, it is that such evidence is often less systematic and more selective than that used by supporters of evidence-based policy and practice.
  • Pragmatics and contingencies: Other factors that influence policymaking and policy implementation include the sheer pragmatics of political life, such as parliamentary terms and timetables, procedures of the policy-making process, capacities of institutions and unanticipated contingencies that arise.


Survey of governance indicators' use by policymakers

A particularly relevant initiative for understanding the use of governance indicators by policymakers can be found in Philippines, where a survey of 1000 policymakers was undertaken to understand whether they were aware of existing governance indicators, whether they used these indicators, and what factors influenced such use.