Insights from ‘policy learning’ on how to enhance the use of evidence by policymakers

2020-01-28 connect learns publication utilization of evidence in decision-making

This article uses the policy-oriented learning literature to provide practical insights on how to enhance the use of evidence by policymakers. After a short introduction to the field, this article presents four steps to understanding and responding to policy learning. First, all people interpret the world through the lens of their beliefs, and learn by combining heuristics and analytical processing. Second, people learn in different ways according to their roles. A novice would not be advised to learn about a specialist issue in the same way as a scientist. Instead, a modified communication strategy would be used to ensure understanding and uptake of evidence. Third, learning is a political process: we interact with our social environment and some actors—including entrepreneurs and brokers—influence the process more than others. Therefore, to encourage learning from scientific evidence we need to move beyond communication towards entrepreneurship and brokerage roles. In other words, policy-oriented learning is as much about interaction and leadership as information.