A recent article was published in the Evaluative Voices series of the Northern Institute (NI), Charles Darwin University (CDU), entitled Impact = Content x Influence: Evaluation, evidence and policy in Canadian Government and written by Benoît Gauthier (CE; Honorary Fellow, NI/CDU; Past President, CES; Treasurer, IOCE). In the paper, Gauthier makes three points: there is no such thing as evidence-based policy-making, anywhere; the Canadian infrastructure for evidence-based policy-making is complex; and in the dynamic of policy-making, although evidence is only a small part of the equation there are factors that can increase the likelihood of evidence use.
Gauthier presents the equation impact (of evidence on policy) = content x influence. Content refers to the quantity x quality x access x congruency of the evidence and influence includes the components of credibility x congruency x timeliness x self-scrutiny x expediency.
Using these concepts, Gauthier outlines ways that evidence producers, including evaluators, can increase the impact of evidence on policy-making:
- plan more systematic data collection and more rigorous study designs to connect the problem with potential solutions (quality of content);
- develop more information on the problem situation and its dynamics (quantity of content);
- prepare pre-packaged syntheses of information on the problem (accessibility of content);
- present the evidence in a manner that connects with the preconceived notions held by the decision makers (congruency of content);
- route the evidence through an interest group or a brain trust that has the decision maker’s ear (credibility and congruency of the source);
- conduct strategic analysis of the policy landscape to forecast when a social problem will surface in the decision maker’s agenda and ensure the availability of required evidence in time (timeliness of evidence);
- select battles that can be won and move on when the decision maker is not open to evidence information (self-scrutiny of the decision-maker); and/or
- identify the information that is most likely to feed the public policy debate in the direction of evidence informed decision making (expediency of the evidence).