In this audio recording, Megan Lloyd Laney, Communications adviser in the Central Research Department, shares her perspectives on the problem of evidence-based policy-making.
Being asked to speak about policy making processes on behalf on DFID, she says, felt like a “scary deal”.
Research is not consensual but we need to look at different knowledge and narratives. Within DFID itself, there is belief in engaging with an evidence base to inform policy, but in practice they are unable to.
Megan outlines some of the disablers and enablers to engaging with an evidence base:
• Policymaking is “messy and grubby” – there are lots of factors involved – negotiation, the art of politics, institutional capacity to capture from all the different evidence.
• People are too busy responding to national imperatives and regional programmes of support to engage with an evidence base.
• DFID frequently changes policy narratives (e.g. sustainable livelihoods, natural resource development, and climate change). These changing labels disable the outside world from understanding and engaging.
Evidence based policy, she says, ‘means different things to different people’. How do you get people to engage with an evidence base that is broad and disparate, when making difficult and on the fly decisions?
She advocates two approaches:
– Make visible the invisible: A lot of knowledge already exists, we do not need to generate more – instead we should look to supporting institutions already generating new kinds of evidence to inform policy.
– Strengthen the demand for and use of research: the recent DFID strategy promises £1 billion to spend on commissioning and getting research into use.
People need to recognise the constraints under which policies are developed; have a better ‘understanding about the impediments of why we [policymakers] are willing but not always able’.
The window of opportunity, she says, is when policy gets implemented. That is when putting things into operation on the ground makes the difference.
Megan Lloyd Laney is the Communications Advisor for the UK Department for International Development (DFID).