Evidence use

25 January 2024

We are committed to advancing evidence-informed decision making on matters of public interest. Our evidence use strand of work delves into how evidence shapes policy and informs action across governmental and non-governmental entities.

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Our services

Our consulting services span:

  • research,
  • advisory,
  • strategy,
  • monitoring, evaluation and learning,
  • convening,
  • capacity strengthening.

Our experts

OTT’s work on evidence use is led by Emily Hayter. Our associates and consultants are based in the Global South and North, from a diverse range of cultural and disciplinary backgrounds.

Why evidence use

Understanding the dynamics of evidence use is essential for fostering more and better evidence-informed decision making. Through our work, we seek to explore questions like:

  • How and when do decision makers use evidence?
  • What kinds of evidence do they use and why?
  • Who uses the evidence and through what processes?
  • What structures, processes and relationships (formal and informal) facilitate the use of evidence?
  • What are the needs of individual and organisational evidence users to better integrate evidence on an ongoing basis?
  • What can evidence producers, like think tanks, do to more effectively see their evidence used?

Ultimately, we seek to understand how public sector actors work, and how they change. We tackle this as both a cross-cutting public sector issue, as well as in specific sectors such as health, education or public finance where these questions may manifest differently.

A systems perspective

At OTT we take a holistic systems approach to support evidence-informed change, recognising that evidence-informed decision making requires a comprehensive understanding of the entire ecosystem.

Therefore, we collaborate with stakeholders across the ecosystem, including those who generate and communicate evidence (such as think tanks and other research entities) as well as those who use and fund it (such as government agencies, political parties, donors and multilateral organisations). Read more about our Evidence Generation and Communication work strand.

We advocate for a broad approach to evidence-informed policy that engages with fields and issues such as political systems, civil society, knowledge regimes, public sector reform, and corruption.

Key focus areas

Understanding power dynamics: We recognise the significant impact of power dynamics, context and politics on evidence use and actively engage with these factors in our projects. We are interested in whose knowledge counts and why.

Organisational change: We understand that evidence use isn’t just about individual evidence users, it is about systems, processes, relationships and working cultures within organisations.

Sector-specific and evidence-type lens:  We consider how general principles of evidence use may differ within specific sectors – such as education or environment – or with various types of evidence – such as evaluations, research, citizen knowledge.

Evidence on evidence use: We take a learning-driven approach that values and builds upon existing knowledge, especially from the Global South, seeking to identify gaps and propose new activities to drive the field forward.

Think tanks and evidence use: OTT has strong connections to the think tank sector, and we’re constantly reflecting on their role within evidence use. We explore what kinds of capacities do think tanks need to work on this issue, where do they see the relevance and what are the challenges they experience?

Our added value

Convening: We connect actors across the evidence-informed policy ecosystem. Through our global network of think tanks, funders and policy experts we are well placed to facilitate dialogue within Southern national contexts, as well as between the North and South.

Trusted donor relationships: Our long-standing relationship with key donors in the evidence-use field enables us to act as knowledge brokers between donors and grantees, providing valuable insights into their needs and challenges.

A critical eye: We’re always looking to push ourselves, our clients, and the community forward. This includes critically examining the international development system, advocating for reform, effectiveness, and learning within the sector.

Communications: We embed communications and engagement expertise into all our work. This supports better collaboration and use within projects, and helps share knowledge with the wider field, and increases the visibility of our partners and their work.

Recent projects


To learn more about our evidence use work:

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