June 13, 2017

Opinion

Looking back: the first Latin American Evidence Week

[This post was originally written for the On Think Tanks 2016 annual report in Spanish by Carlos Frías. The text was translated by Erika Perez-Leon, On Think Tanks’ digital content editor, and edited by Carolina Kern.]

The first Evidence Week 2016 (SE2016) was promoted by the Peruvian Alliance for the Use of Evidence (Alianza Peruana para el Uso de la Evidencia), the Universidad del Pacífico, the REDPERUME, and OTT,with the financial support of the UK Government. There were at least 1,200 participants, 35 partner organisations (both public and private) and 110 participants in panel discussions including government representatives, ministries, universities, NGOs, foundations, think tanks and the media. During the first Evidence Week, 30 events were held including panel discussions, workshops, presentations, and social events. All of these were held in various locations in Perú.

There are a number of important lessons learned on the use of evidence for public policy:

  • Through the events, we had the chance to better understand the barriers and opportunities that decision-makers face when they try to use evidence to inform their policies, as well as the difficulties researchers face.
  • We analysed successful cases of the use of research, such as initiatives that seek to institutionalise the use of evidence by the state and when responding to political emergencies.
  • We learned that state institutions (at all levels), academia, the private sector, think tanks (traditional and non-traditional), and other actors must collaborate to generate evidence. They must also share data and existing knowledge in order to come up with solutions informed by evidence.
  • It is clear that purely technocratic solutions do not work. What we need is better capacity to incorporate research into political decisions. This evidence must be used in every step of the design and implementation process of public policy. The capacity to incorporate pressing political matters into research agendas of universities, think tanks and research centres must also be improved across the country.
  • The giant gap between Lima and the rest of the country has to be resolved. We must strengthen the ability of different players to generate and use evidence outside of Lima. Local problems need local answers.
  • The media can and must play a new role in this effort by making use of evidence to inform the public policy debate, both at national and local levels.

Putting together this first Evidence Week was not without its challenges, but learning from these will help us prepare for the second Evidence Week in October 2017. For next year, we will endeavour to:

  • Promote larger and better participation in the debate and activities from actors and policy makers at every level. This will allow the event to become a space of meeting and dialogue between those who produce evidence for public policy and potential users of this evidence. Likewise, we will continue to emphasise the participation of private companies and the media during the week of events.
  • Make this type of exchange of opinions and knowledge available in other big cities in the country. This will promote the creation and use of locally produced evidence to inform solutions to local problems, which will be a more efficient political exercise to solve the demands of the citizens. We would like to create a week of events, which include activities in three other main cities in the country, all planned and promoted by local institutions.
  • The problem with the use of evidence to inform public policy is not only a problem in Peru. This is why, in 2017, Evidence Week will encourage the exchange of experiences with other Latin American countries, through forums and debates of mutual interest. These will take place in other countries in the region and will be seen and commented on by the Peruvian audience. Likewise, some of the activities in Perú will be seen in other Latin American countries, encouraging a participatory exchange.
  • The task of using scientific knowledge, and have results and research be increasingly used in public policy, is one that concerns all members of the private and public sectors in our society. This is why we will expand the team in charge of organising the events to include all organisations which have activities during the week.

We know that the challenges and the effort necessary to reach our objectives during the second Evidence Week seem big, but we also know that the enthusiasm and interest for the subject matter is great at every level. With this, we invite everyone to be part of this initiative and share lessons learned and knowledge which will help the development of our societies.

About the author:

Carlos Frías:  Manager at Soluciones Prácticas in Lima, Perú.

Read more from: Carlos Frías

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