Lessons on using evidence for policymaking from an Evidence to Action conference
On 16–17 July 2018, Million Gebreyes of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) led a team from the Sustainable Agricultural Intensification Research and Learning in Africa (SAIRLA) – National Learning Alliance in Ethiopia at the Evidence to Action conference organized by the International Centre for Evaluation and Development in Nairobi, Kenya. The SAIRLA team presented SAIRLA projects approaches that are generating evidence and tools to inform decisions in sustainable agricultural intensification.
In this blog, Million reflects on the workshop.
‘While there were interesting insights to draw from the conference on how evidence could/should be used to inform policy decisions, two issues caught my attention. The first was from a keynote speech by a Kenyan Cabinet Secretary on the challenges of politics, uncertainty, timing and communication in using evidence in high-level policymaking .
‘By politics, he was referring to the ideological stands of most policy decision-makers, who despite availability of evidence, often prefer to stick to their political ideologies. As a result, the cabinet secretary said, evidence is often not used as the basis for policy decisions.
‘By uncertainty, he meant the contradictions or inconclusiveness of some research findings which often frustrate policymakers who wants to use evidence in their decisions.’ He challenged researchers to resolve contradictions in their findings or help decision-makers to understand the sources of uncertainties in their findings.
‘By timing, he meant the urgency or short timespan that policymakers often have in their search for evidence. His message was that if researchers, want to see their evidence to inform policy decisions they should understand current policy agenda and align their findings accordingly. Finally, by communication he meant the need by the politicians for concise and clear evidence. He said researchers should avoid presenting highly technical information and long reports but rather translate their evidence into brief documents written in clear language.
‘The other lesson I learnt was with regard to knowledge management. In the same line, various presenters and panellists alluded to the importance of knowledge translation and brokering for evidence to better inform policy decisions. Knowledge translation refers to the process of making sure that evidence and knowledge is made easier to understand, access and use. This could include, for example, development of policy briefs from lengthy policy research projects, translation of findings into local languages, disseminating through appropriate channels and so on. Knowledge brokering on the other hand is linking up knowledge generators and users, facilitating co-generation of knowledge and creating linkages to ensure use of knowledge products. At a time when donors are demanding for impacts, research organizations need to take knowledge brokering seriously and have the necessary personnel with the required skill sets.
Written by Million Gebreyes.