We’ve been reflecting on the first ever Evidence Week, an initiative led by Sense about Science in collaboration with others to bring together MPs, peers, parliamentary services and people from all walks of life from across the UK to discuss why evidence matters to them.
We heard that evidence matters to the Somerset Beekeepers Association, as it helps them to be prepared and identify the best ways to protect their bees. It matters to the Aberdeen Multicultural Centre, where they use it to help members of their community understand climate change and rally together to address it. To a scout leader, evidence matters as they witness every day how important critical thinking and the ability to judge the quality of different sources of evidence are to young people.
The hope for Evidence Week is to make the gap between MP’s, the organisations present, and others who champion the use of evidence and data to improve outcomes, narrower. To encourage MP’s to consider the merits of evidence-based policy and legislate on the basis of what works. It sounds simple but we know in reality it’s easier said than done.
There certainly is a lot of interest in research, so why is it so hard for some policy makers to use reliable evidence?
Mary Creagh MP at Evidence Week.
A common theme ran throughout the week: that a barrier to designing evidence-based policy is the inaccessibility of evidence.
At the Centre we’re aware that policy-makers time is stretched. We also know that evidence can be inaccessible, buried in grey literature, or at times it simply doesn’t exist. It’s also difficult to discern what reliable evidence looks like for those whose time is under so much pressure.
The last day of Evidence Week focused on ‘wicked’ problems, a phrase used by policy-makers to describe complex and unpredictable issues. Homelessness is a classic example of a ‘wicked’ problem, and we welcomed that there was a dedicated panel session focusing on it that day. Leading experts in the field discussed what we know about the main challenges and solutions on homelessness in the UK today.
We know that to reach our goal of any experience of homelessness, when unavoidable, being brief, rare, and non-recurring, we must make the evidence actionable and accessible. That’s why we are on a mission to put reliable evidence at the fingertips of those working to end homelessness,- our evidence tools, inspired by tools produced by what works groups across the globe, do just that. The tools are groundbreaking in the homelessness field and will grow over time; as the evidence base grows so will their usefulness.
RT Hon Norman Lamb MP at Evidence Week.
Over the course of the week it was fantastic to hear from such a diverse range of organisations about why evidence matters to them, and how they plan to hold policy-makers accountable to using that evidence to make a difference to the UK. We hope there will be many more Evidence Weeks to come.
The impact of providing people housing outside their local area: An Evaluation of HomeFinder UK
Find out more about our plans for evaluating HomeFinder UK and how it will enable us to better understand how approaches to out of area moves impact people.
What can universities do to prevent homelessness?
What has homelessness got to do with universities? The responses to this question may range from a puzzled shrug to an emphatic ‘nothing’. Is not ending homelessness the responsibility of the state, some will ask? The prevalence of homelessness tends to be higher in university towns and cities, in some cases strikingly so.
Could universities do more to prevent homelessness?
Universities should do more to track and prevent homelessness among their students and can play a significant, wider role in supporting efforts to end all forms of homelessness, our latest policy paper published in partnership with the Higher Education Policy Institute argues.