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Being open with evidence at DfID

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Examples and findings

The best policy decisions are informed by evidence, and where possible this evidence should be shared and made publicly available. In the Civil Service Reform Plan: one year on report we committed to publishing more of the evidence that supports policy making. Many Departments are now considering how they can improve their use of evidence and the transparency of policy decisions by doing this. In this series of blogposts we are sharing some great examples from across Government of how to go about publishing your evidence base and the benefits that this can bring.  

 - Laura Baynton, Cabinet Office What Works Team

One of the ongoing challenges in international development is making sure that we understand what does or doesn’t work, so that we can either scale up something that is successful or avoid those approaches that are less effective.

Much evidence is generated as part of the normal running of international development projects in DFID, as highlighted in the recent What Works Review of the Use of Evidence in DFID. Regular reviews are carried out as part of normal project management, including annual reviews and project completion reviews, while systematic evaluations target projects or groups of projects, and audits are performed by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI). There are also a wide range of research outputs generated as part of international development activities.

Part of our commitment to the UK taxpayer and the international community is to make the evidence we use to make our decisions accessible and useful to a wide range of users in a timely way.Publishing this information in isolation, one report at a time doesn’t tell the whole story. It is important to synthesise all information commissioned and collected so that the relevant lessons are accessible and readily useable across the organisation.

One of the ways we synthesise the information is through the Development Tracker. This is an online tool based on open data that the UK Government publishes in the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) standard each month, which is then reproduced to provide a more user-friendly view of the information.

On the Development Tracker you can now see the details of each international development programme, including

  • the analysis or underpinning evidence, the theories of change, the anticipated impact (Business Case and logframes)
  • progress reporting and emerging lessons (Annual Reviews)
  • outcomes (Project Completion Reviews and programme evaluations)
  • research products published on Research for Development (R4D) and pulled through to the funding project. A good example is the Evidence Education Products programme.

Anyone searching for lessons or experience of different situations can see all the information in context, tracing the evolution of a programme from inception and initial objectives all the way through to outcomes. This is open publication of the actual data and documentation used for decision making. The Development Tracker has therefore become a rich tool for DFID staff to use in planning and delivery of development programmes, but also a resource for international development professionals outside DFID.

If you want to find out more about how evidence and research is used in DFID, follow @DFID_Research and @DFID_Evidence on Twitter.


Interested in how government is publishing the evidence it uses? Watch out for more posts from Department of Health, Ministry of Justice, and the Department for Work and Pensions - or track the 'publishing the evidence' category.


Image credit: az/d-221 books, licenced under Creative Commons (some rights reserved).
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