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Maura K. Leary
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Evidence-Based Public Policy Overview

A growing number of governments in the developing world are trying to improve their performance so they can operate more efficiently and provide better services to citizens. To do so, they are creating national or sub-national monitoring and evaluation systems that help them measure and understand how well public programs do. Such systems form the backbone of evidence-based public policy.

Evidence-based policy is guided by solid analysis that shows what works and what does not – and why. It  helps nations bring about meaningful reforms and policy improvements that, in turn, can increase government accountability and facilitate performance-based budgeting and management.

The World Bank offers advisory services to nations that want to implement evidence-based policies to respond better to rising or competing demands from society. We also bring practitioners together to share lessons and best practices on reforms, government initiatives and long-term policy objectives – all with the goal of bringing more accountability to government and better services to citizens.

The value of monitoring and evaluation programs comes when the evidence is used to improve government performance in tangible ways. The evidence may provide information about the performance of an entire government, a ministry or agency, or about managers and their staff, and it can always be used to implement positive change.

 

The World Bank’s work to advance evidence-based policymaking focuses on building government capacity to help nations develop their own monitoring and evaluation systems. This involves improving the capacity of national statistical offices and other government agencies for data collection and analysis, developing national monitoring and evaluation systems, and sharing cutting-edge research on evaluation methodologies and tools.

In recent years, requests for monitoring and evaluation support have been rising as citizens demand more from their governments and policymakers seek to deliver results in a fiscally challenging environment.

The Bank’s support is provided through formal training and technical assistance to government clients. We also facilitate regional cooperation on development of government monitoring and evaluation systems, and conduct impact evaluation studies in cooperation with governments to assess whether reforms and programs are successful.

 

The World Bank’s work to promote evidence-based public policy covers agencies and programs of different size and scope. Here are a few examples of where such work had an impact:

• The Bank financed a project in Yemen that established the Middle Eastern nation’s first Poverty Reduction Strategy Monitoring Unit in 2007. The project included a study trip to Uganda where policymakers learned from Uganda’s good practice of connecting accountability with resource allocation, and how important it is to establish an independent statistics office.

• An impact evaluation of Cambodia’s Secondary School Scholarship Fund, created to increase and retain female students from poor families, found that recipients were 30 percent more likely to stay in schools than those who did not receive scholarships. The study prompted the government to use some of the evaluation design features in a different scholarship program and to conduct a rigorous evaluation of a grant program.

• An evaluation of conditional cash transfer program in Colombia sought to find out if such transfers were a cost-effective way to increase poor children’s access to health and education. The study concluded that the transfer program increased primary school enrollment in rural, but not in urban areas – but that it had a positive effect on secondary school enrollment in both settings. It also found that access to health services reduced diarrhea in rural, but not in urban areas. The Colombian government still used the results of the evaluation to justify expanding the program to urban areas, but modified components of the program for better results.

 

Around The Bank Group

Find out what the Bank Group's branches are doing on Evidence-Based Public Policy.