Our Evidence Principles
We believe that our beneficiary groups should be involved in the process of evidence gathering and use. There are many ways to do this at appropriate points. We expect to see principles of inclusion at the heart of the work we fund.
By evidence, we mean any information that can be usefully and logically used in relation to a position, problem, hypothesis or argument. Published research is a particularly important form of evidence, but it is not the only one. Its importance and utility depends on the question being asked.
The relationship between evidence and policy or practice is not (and should not be) linear. Decisions about what to do next should be evidence-informed, but will also involve values, politics and judgement. We should be open about this.
Our approach to evaluation is rooted in the realist tradition. This emphasises the importance of how things have happened, as well as what the impact or outcomes have been. Different kinds of questions will require different kinds of evidence, and different kinds of evidence cannot be assessed using a rigid framework that doesn’t take context into account.
We do not apply rigid standards of evidence, but we will expect all of our investments to have a fully articulated Theory of Change (an understanding of why a particular approach is expected to work).
In assessing evidence, we need to consider how and how well it has been collected. We must consider issues of:
- Transparency (e.g. were any problems in finding evidence made clear?)
- Appropriateness (e.g. was the method used the best for that purpose?)
- Inclusion (e.g. were all relevant voices asked to participate?)
- Independence (e.g. do some participants have vested interests?)
We also need to consider the overall body or weight of evidence and not simply the quality of individual studies. We are committed to openness in our use of evidence, and to sharing our resources and learning with wider audiences.