This roundtable was organised by Annette Boaz, Huw Davies, Alec Fraser and Sandra Nutley, editors of What Works Now?, in partnership with the Alliance for Useful Evidence at Nesta.
Our chair Geoff Mulgan (Nesta) kicked things off with a 1-minute history of the evidence movement, and a challenge that for evidence to truly become part of the air we breathe, it must be genuinely engaged with both the political and media environments. There are also lots of potential opportunities – for example to engage with work on data and analytics.
Annette Boaz presented an overview of the new book, looking back at twenty years of evidence-informed policy and practice and looking forward to the progress we still need to make1 . For example, we’re still predominantly of the ‘push’ mindset and at a very early stage of understanding the ‘pull’ factors of evidence use. Do we in the UK still lead this field- are we going to up our game and keep leading the movement? Should we be learning more from the international space? And in which areas will we see funding and investment?
This was followed by a presentation from Ruth Stewart (Africa Centre for Evidence) on using evidence in international development. Whereas in the UK demand lags behind supply, in South Africa and the Global South it’s the opposite - there is an extraordinary appetite for evidence. Though the language is driven from UK, evidence use has its own history in South Africa and its government. The approaches to evidence use in countries like South Africa are born of necessity very often, but this can lead to positive spin offs. Fewer resources may make long-term collaboration between diverse stakeholders essential – this can lead to partnership approaches that are qualitatively different from ‘co-production’ and can likewise foster methodological innovations. Being situated closer to national governments also may speed up the transition of ideas from researchers to policymakers