Evidence-based or evidence-informed policymaking and practice is increasingly championed by governments and decision-makers. To make this a reality, it is important to know how stakeholders, such as policymakers and practitioners, already view and use evidence. Therefore, the support and engagement of these relevant stakeholders may be invaluable. Understanding how stakeholders make sense of and prioritise available evidence is an important element in improving the policies and practices that affect people's lives.

In complex fields of social policies, the type and number of relevant stakeholders can vary widely. Each group of stakeholders may come with their own experiences, training, and identity that shapes how they may engage with different types of evidence. Such multidisciplinary environments can make it challenging to achieve consensus on how available evidence is understood and interpreted.

A recent RAND Europe project for the Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) examined how the EIF's many and varied stakeholders understand the existing evidence base—and its implications for policy and practice—on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). ACEs encompass 10 categories of child maltreatment and family dysfunction: three kinds of abuse (physical, emotional, sexual); two kinds of neglect (physical and emotional); and five kinds of household dysfunction (mental illness, mother treated violently, divorce, incarcerated relative, and substance abuse).

While these 10 categories all interact, they tend to relate to different areas of professional expertise and responsibility. Professional fields have each tended to develop their own understanding of the evidence—what they think does and does not work in addressing ACEs. It has been argued that there are currently many misconceptions regarding the existing evidence base and disagreement exists as to the best next steps in research, policy, and practice to improve outcomes for children affected by ACEs. Accordingly, our research team at RAND Europe conducted a consensus-seeking exercise with EIF stakeholders by using a three-survey Delphi approach.

Read the full article about adverse childhood experiences by Tom Ling and Michaela Bruckmayer at RAND Corporation.