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Supporting evidence-use in policy and practice: Reflections for the What Works Network


13 May 2021

This briefing outlines five key insights on how to think about supporting evidence-use. It is based on EIF’s recent work, which includes a focus on understanding context and behaviour through our impact framework, drawing on the COM-B model of behaviour change.




It introduces key reflections for the What Works Network and other organisations focused on translating evidence from research for use in important decisions about policy and practice. It is based on observations from EIF’s own programme of work, where we have focused on ’getting evidence used’, and uses case examples to embed these insights in practice. Although directly informed by EIF’s work on early intervention services and support, these lessons are widely applicable to other areas of public policy and practice.

  1. Understand your role in the evidence ecosystem and the interplay between other actors within the wider context, to align efforts to support evidence-use.
  2. Achieve a broad and neutral understanding of the wider context and how it affects what audiences are trying to achieve.
  3. Think about what is meant by evidence: challenge assumptions about what counts as ‘quality’ evidence.
  4. Identify what meaningful evidence use would look like: develop a clear understanding of the context and associated factors which influence evidence-use, using a conceptual impact framework.
  5. Develop context-informed plans to support evidence-use, based on a sound understanding of context, consideration of the potential roles of other organisations within the evidence ecosystem, and an assessment of where you are most likely to have an influence.

This briefing reflects EIF’s enhanced approach to supporting evidence-use through engaging with end-user audiences in the development of our research, and to developing plans to support evidence-use that are rooted in an understanding of context and behaviour. This is outlined in our impact framework based around the COM-B model of behaviour change, which proposes that Capability (knowledge and skills), Opportunity (conditions in the external environment) and Motivation (automatic reactions or reflective intentions and beliefs) interact to influence behaviour.

About the author

Stephanie Waddell

Steph is assistant director for impact and knowledge mobilisation at EIF.