Policymakers engaging with an evidence base – audio recording

May 26, 2009

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.

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“Policy process is a narrative” – audio recording

September 16, 2008

In this audio recording, Dr Temba Masilela from HSRC shares his perspectives on the problem of ‘evidence-based policy-making’ speaking about policy processes in South Africa. Having worked as a policy advisor and journalist and prior to this been an exile in Kenya, Temba speaks about how we should approach policy not just in terms of research, but as a narrative; it needs to be contextualised.

Dr Temba Masilela speaks on the opening panel at the Power of In-Between conference

Dr Temba Masilela speaks on the opening panel at the Power of In-Between conference

Taking an example of xenophobic attacks in South Africa, he asks what are the issues and imperatives underlying what happened – migration, crime, poverty, competition for resources? People see different narratives and framings and we need to analyse policy based on this.

Temba outlines a definition of the public policy process: “it’s a narrative about the authoritative allocation of values and resources”. It’s a narrative because it’s a story with many questions and answers:

  • It has particular context, actors, relationships, plot and perspectives
  • It is a story about why, who benefits, how should it be done, who bears the consequences and costs?
  • It has an ending, happy or sad
  • It is interactive, iterative and about engagement
  • It has a history to it, a present and a future
  • It requires some suspension of disbelief as well as trust that it is beneficial and will result in desired outcome

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Policy making as seen from “the belly of the beast”: audio recording

September 4, 2008

From her position at the “centre of power” or the “belly of the beast”, Dr Mateora Sadan, Senior Policy Analyst in the policy co-ordination advisory service within the South African Presidency shared her reflections on the nature of “evidence based policy making across the South African government system. This is the audio recording of her presentation during the opening session of the “Locating Power of In-between” conference.

Speaking openly and frankly Dr Sadan argued that there has definitely been a shift towards wanting to engage and utilise research more, but acknowledged that there is uneven use of research evidence across different departments. Dr Sadan cited the Department of a Social Development as a positive example of a department that engages with evidence, motivated she argued by their need to defend their decisions to the Treasury Department. However in other parts of the government system often people use research that supports their position, that might come down to basing decisions on one research paper.

Dr Sadan identified problems as lying with both researchers and policy makers: she questioned the communication style of some researchers, saying that within government circles some research reports are known as “doorstoppers” as they are so heavy and impenetrable; on the other hand she questioned the assumption that policy makers are actually able to assess and interpret information and apply it effectively. She then went on to identify some practical approaches to addressing these challenges.

Listen to Dr Sadan’s 10 minute presentation.
Read the blog of the session.