How to think like an evidence-informed policymaker

By Louise Shaxson 07 June 2016

A group of policymakers and researchers from Tunisia, the Palestinian territories and Saudi Arabia participate in a discussion on relevance of research, potential policy recommendations and the policymaking cycle. Photo by: ILO / CC BY-NC-ND

I’ve spent the past 11 years working closely with policymakers in the United Kingdom and internationally on many issues to do with evidence. During that time I’ve noticed that, although everyone has a different way of doing their job, those policymakers really putting evidence to good use share certain ways of thinking, which might stand you in good stead in other careers.

Here’s a few of the most useful ways to approach your work:

1. Sometimes, you need to think a bit like a boxer.

As a senior policymaker, you need to be ready to defend your policies. Sometimes this means helping your minister or head of state defend policies in public, sometimes it means arguing over resources with other departments or the treasury.

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About the author

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Louise Shaxson

Louise Shaxson is a research fellow in the Overseas Development Institute’s RAPID program. She initially trained as an agricultural economist, but her work now focuses on improving public sector policy and strategy within the broad framework of evidence-based policymaking. Over the past 10 years she has worked with policymakers in line ministries in the U.K. and developing countries, helping them make more effective use of evidence and embedding an evidence-informed approach throughout their organizations.


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