The role and importance of context in the interaction between research and policy is widely recognized. But there is significant room to improve our understanding of how context matters, and affects the use of evidence in policy-making.
In 2016, INASP and Politics & Ideas developed the Context Matters Framework - a tool to help policymakers, researchers, practitioners and donors better define windows of opportunity in different contexts to focus efforts on promoting better interaction between knowledge and policy.
The framework aims to help users better assess the contexts in which they operate and, based on careful assessment, detect where the potential for change may be greater (and barriers more significant). By applying this lens to a particular government setting, users can identify what to do, with who and how more effectively.
The framework identifies six dimensions, spanning the external context, relationships between agencies, and organisational capacity, culture, processes and resources.
Interactive online framework: www.politicsandideas.org/contextmatters
Piloting the Framework
In partnership with Politics & Ideas, and following an open call, INASP piloted the framework during 2017 and 2018 with the Secretariat for Public Administration of the Prime Minister’s office (SGP) and the Economic and Social Research Consortium (CIES) in Peru and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Ghana.
The aim of the pilot is to use the Context-Matters Framework to:
- develop a systematic diagnosis of a government agency’s capability to inform policy with knowledge;
- strengthen key relationships between the selected government agency and local knowledge producers;
- co-develop a change plan including strategies for addressing issues identified in the diagnosis, and consideration of available capacities and resources; and
- jointly evaluate the progress and results to improve organisational learning.
In Peru, we have focused our scope on strengthening SGP’s role as a central department with relationships with multiple levels of government whilst improving direct user feedback to the knowledge producer. The aim of the intervention is to answer two basic questions:
- Is what CIES producing helpful for the policymaker?
- How can we improve the relevance of the knowledge, in terms of content and delivery mechanism?
In Ghana we are working with EPA to explore how and where research knowledge is relevant to decision making and included in the EPA’s policy formulation cycle. We will then identify the processes that require improvement within the agency whilst highlighting the resources required.