Government Commissioned Evaluation
The brief shares lessons from a case study into the use of the evaluation of the South African government’s response to violence against women and children (VAWC) which was commissioned by the Departments of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) and Social Development (DSD). The ethnographic account
of the journey of a government-commissioned evaluation from evidence generation to its integration within policy decisions offers lessons both to those involved in evidence generation and those in policy-making institutions.
The research found that because government-commissioned evaluations start with a policy question and respond to demands from policy makers, this shapes the questions to be asked but also promotes subsequent use of the evidence. Having an institutionalised system (National Evaluation System) that encourages the use of evidence created adequate incentives for policy makers to act on the evidence. DPME and DSD evaluation units played an important knowledge brokering role that shaped evidence generation, ensuring that policy makers effectively participate in the evaluation process. They also translated the evaluation evidence to key policy messages, briefing policy makers, and communicating the evaluation once approved. Civil society organisations (CSOs) were also critical to enabling the use of the evaluation by providing spaces for ongoing multi-sector dialogue that proved critical to the sense-making process needed for individuals to act on the evidence. CSOs also pressured government to respond to the problem of VAWC, which created an opportunity for government to use the evidence from the diagnostic review.
The case study reaffirms that use of evidence in a highly contested, and often long, policy process is both important and complex. It is influenced by how the evidence is demanded and generated and what happens after the generation.