Good policy advice is underpinned by good evidence. This means that the advice is informed by up-to-date data, contextual and other knowledge, people’s experiences and research from New Zealand and overseas.
Achieving evidence-informed policy requires several things of policy practitioners. First, a commitment to building the gathering and analysis of quantitative and qualitative data into your policy work – as the norm, not the exception. Second, building effective relationships with key resource people. These include experts in administrative data, official statistics, diverse research and evaluative techniques and community engagement. Third, you need to progressively broaden your own evidence-oriented knowledge and skill base over time. This will mean you can commission effective evidence-gathering, present evidence effectively, and critically evaluate how robust the evidence you and others have collected is.
Good practice in evidence-informed policy making matters. This includes being aware of any limitations of evidence used, and their implications for your recommendations, and ensuring your advice is candid about that. Good practice also means being unbiased in how you use evidence (both in what you use in your advice, and what you omit to use).
Below you will find a number of resources to help you get better at using evidence in your policy making.
Check out the Chief Science Advisor Forum, convened by the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor. Its purpose includes advancing the use of science to benefit New Zealand through promoting the use of evidence to inform policy development, practice and evaluation.
Check out Superu’s Making sense of evidence: A guide to using evidence in policy.
Read here a summary of a roundtable held by Superu and the School of Government at Victoria University that was chaired by Dr Sarah Morton, Centre for Research on Families, on the Use of evidence in public policy.
You may also like to read Nesta’s Using Research Evidence – A Practice Guide.
If you are particularly interested in the role of scientific evidence in policy making in New Zealand, read Sir Peter Gluckman’s Enhancing Evidence-Informed Policy Making: A Report by the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor.
Good evaluation of policy decisions is important because it helps inform future decision-making – and contributes to continuous improvement. Evaluation asks ‘What worked, and what didn’t work so well?’ Good evaluation needs to assess whether a policy solution met its objectives. It often helps you refine your initial problem definition. Good evaluation also needs to measure the impact the policy has made and for whom. For example, has the policy improved the outcomes and wellbeing of the general public, or a particular population group or people from a particular area? The other important question that evaluations can ask is ‘If not, why not and what can be done about it?’
As a policy practitioners, you may contribute to evaluation processes, commission evaluations of past policies, and/or use evaluation results. Becoming more familiar with good evaluation practice will help you in all those contexts.
These resources can help you build evaluation into your policy making.
Check out Superu’s guide Making sense of evaluation.
You may also be interested in reading Andrew Kibblewhite’s speech to the International Year of Evaluation in 2015.
A senior leaders’ round table was held with Professor Paul Cairney, University of Stirling, in October 2018 on Maximising Collaboration between Public Servants and Academics in Evidence-based Policy Making.
The Aotearoa New Zealand Evaluation Association and Superu teamed up to produce evaluation standards for Aotearoa New Zealand. Check out the full evaluation standards and a summary version of the standards.
The BetterEvaluation website has a range of methods and approaches to evaluation that may help you to plan, design, oversee and use an evaluation.
There are also some international resources that you might find useful, including the United Kingdom’s Treasury’s Magenta Book on Central government guidance on evaluation.
The Policy Skills Framework can also help you to assess your skills or those of your team in relation to using ‘Evidence, insights and evaluation’ to support analysis.