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Video interview explains how DFID is using evidence

19/10/2015

Guest post by Qurratulain (Annie) Zaman, INASP


Ed Barney, Research Uptake Manager, DFID, UK  

GINKS, one of the partners in the INASP-led VakaYiko Consortium, recently published some ‘voices’ in the form of videos recorded during the recent VakaYiko Consortium meeting in Accra, Ghana.

In the first video, Ed Barney, Research Uptake Manager at the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), talks about evidence-informed policy making (EIPM) within DFID.

“Ours is an organization with more than 3,000 staff based in 28 countries and it is quite a challenge to embed a culture of EIPM,” he says.

To help achieve this goal, DFID is building up its supply of research information; as Ed observes, if you can’t access it then you can’t use it.

DFID is building information systems to provide easy access to research, to improve its own portfolio and communications to the rest of the organization. And to also change the products they used to provide as evidence to its decision makers. Ed notes that this can mean changing the sources used as evidence by decision makers.

DFID is moving away from standard scientific academic papers to custom-designed policy papers such as policy briefs, systematic reviews and evidence papers, which are created by keeping policy makers and their needs in mind. Barney stresses the importance of working with more policymakers to get better understanding of the research from policy advisors, economic advisors and data analysts’ point of view. DFID has designed online courses to help them understand the importance of research and evidence in policy making.  DFID is also building links between researchers and policy makers. “There is an understanding that some of the research we commission is to fulfil our own policy needs,” says Ed. For example DIFID commissioned an evidence map to get quick assessment of policy areas.

Accepting challenges and learning from mistakes:
2015 is the year of innovation and learning for DFIF and DFID is keen to learn from its mistakes and failures.  The Independent Commission of Aid Effectiveness (ICAI) recently conducted a review of learning in DFID and gave DFID an ‘amber red’ rating, highlighting a number of areas where DFID is not representing good practice.

“We lack in collaboration and sharing lessons throughout the whole programme’s life-cycle,” explains Ed. “It is easy to find evidence which tells we are doing good work but difficult to admit that your programme is falling apart. But it is time to be more confident to accept our failures and learn from our mistakes and be comfortable with the evidence,” he continues.

Spend more time with southern partners:
A really important lesson that ICAI highlighted to DFID staff was the need to spend more time in country with partners while designing and adapting the programmes. There is recognition that sometimes UK-based staff don’t have appreciation of the contexts that the programmes are operating in.  This was part of the reason for Ed’s visit to the VakaYiko Consortium meeting in Ghana. “It’s great to be in Ghana and work closely with VakaYiko project to understand the challenges local partners are facing and the success they have achieved in first two years.”

He also says that there is a criticism that small southern-based partners do not have access to new funding, which DFID acknowledges. “We are trying to bridge this and there is recognition that we should work more closely with our partners. It is really important to build capacity of organizations we are working with and collaborate more with them.”
He says that he is pleased to share the VakaYiko model as an example to follow of how five different organizations in different parts of the world are working on evidence-informed policy making.

Click here to watch the interview video

Qurratulain Zaman is Communications Officer at  INASP, an international development charity working with a global network of partners to improve access, production and use of research information and knowledge, so that countries are equipped to solve their development challenges.



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