Giving Compass' Take:

• The Building Capacity to Use Research Evidence (BCURE) program funded by the UK's DFID aimed to identify capacity-building strategies to help low- and middle-income countries to create evidence-informed policy. 

• How can philanthropists apply the learning from this project? What do high-income countries need to improve their use of evidence in policymaking? 

• Read about three key principles of evidence-based policymaking

"Evidence is crucial to successful policymaking. However, in many low and middle-income countries, policymakers lack the capacity to effectively access, appraise and apply research when making decisions."

This was the starting assumption behind the Building Capacity to Use Research Evidence (BCURE) program – a £15.7 million initiative funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) from 2013–17. This report presents the findings of the three-year realist evaluation of BCURE.

Key Findings:

First, evidence use is inherently political. It is often constrained in low and middle-income countries by authoritarian, politicised and fragmented institutions, which are hobbled by financial constraints, low technical or policy experience among civil servants and high levels of corruption. Despite these challenges, many countries are embarking on reforms that create momentum for evidence-informed policy. Building capacity for evidence use means thinking and working politically to harness these windows of opportunity, and effectively navigating political economy constraints that can undermine meaningful reform.

Second, changing ways of working requires thinking beyond ‘skills’ to build capacity at multiple levels of complex government systems. Individual capacity (in terms of knowledge, skills, confidence, and commitment) is the bedrock of effective evidence use, but programs also need to harness organizational processes, management support and wider incentives for people to change ways of working, and make sure interventions join up to have a system-wide effect. Finally, external partners should accompany change, not impose it. Government reform processes are unpredictable and highly context-specific, meaning that it is rarely clear at the outset what will work. Success is more likely when programs accompany government partners through a process of change in a flexible, tailored and collaborative way, rather than providing ad hoc support through one-off activities.