Policy Wonky

If Evidence Doesn’t Precede Action, Change Will Be Glacial

Why It Matters

In fraught and fast-changing times with insecurity in work, climate, and food systems, there is a need to make decisions rooted in evidence that is effective and robust. Crowdsourcing reduces the overhead and effort required to stay on top of policy and movements happening across the country. Join the crowd.

Canada’s size and regional differences have resulted in a very siloed evidence ecosystem in which organizations in a specific sector or issue area, such as homelessness, often work in isolation to develop best-practice tools, data infrastructure, and sector-specific standards of evidence.

While this work is very valuable, it can result in a more fragmented evidence ecosystem if organizations are not linking their evidence across related issues.

What if we were able to link evidence on issues such as homelessness, poverty reduction, and food security on a national level?

Evidence Mapping at Mowat NFP. Story in Future of Good

In November 2018, Mowat NFP launched a crowdsourced map of evidence institutions. These are organizations that contribute to evidence-based decision-making and policy in Canada.

The website maps existing evidence organizations in Canada based on focus area, funding sources, evidence resources, standards of evidence, and existing partnerships.

The crowdsourcing process is a preliminary step toward mapping and integrating Canada’s evidence ecosystem at the national level. (You can contribute to the crowdsourced map here).

Mapping the evidence ecosystem matters for five reasons:

  1. Integrating and consolidating existing evidence will make it easier for social sector organizations, academic researchers, and policymakers to take a big picture view of social policy issues.
  2. Philanthropic and government funders will be able to allocate resources more effectively and promote cross-sector collaboration, rather than funding numerous discrete evidence-generating projects.
  3. Increasing awareness of the existing evidence base will help social sector organizations, which are short on time and resources, quickly identify promising practices emerging from other cities and regions in Canada and apply them to their own work.
  4. Understanding the existing evidence base will encourage academic researchers to find ways to make novel contributions to the evidence ecosystem, addressing problems that remain unsolved.
  5. Policymakers will be able to sift through the existing evidence base more efficiently when developing new policies or programs.

Ultimately, it will allow organizations to collaborate, share best practices, and maximize economies of scale, by expanding data infrastructure, rather than creating a new database or platform that duplicates existing efforts.

In the future, we will need to invest further in building evidence capacity in the social sector so frontline staff can use the data they collect from their day-to-day program delivery to inform the national evidence base.