Making Data Meaningful: Evidence use in a community planning partnership in Scotland

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Abstract

This report provides insight from an ethnographic study of evidence use in the everyday practice of reforming local public services in Scotland. The data is drawn from an in - depth case study of a single local authority area and includes interviews with 20 participants in community planning including service providers, community members and research and policy officers. This case highlights the complex and diverse ways in which public services use a wide range of evidence in decision - making processes. While the findings of this study are not generalisable across all Scottish community planning partnerships (CPPs), they
provide important insights into the types of knowledge and evidence that become meaningful in this context, and why. Our study suggests that CPPs operate in a context of continual change, presenting a challenge to evidence - use. Evidence is used in community planning for a wide range of reasons, but the focus is increasingly on the need to target and prioritise resources in a
context characteris ed by financial constraints and pressures. Statistical tools that claim to provide a more reliable source of evidence will have limited impact on public service reform without understanding and respecting the types of knowledge that are valued in day - to - day work and the ways in which different forms of knowledge and evidence interact.
Evidence use in community planning is a craft that involves valuing and interweaving different forms of evidence and knowledge
– recognising that evidence becomes meaningful through communication. This shifts attention away from hierarchies of evidence to improving the nature and quality of communication and co-production of policies. The problem in policy making is not a lack of evidence, or even its variable quality, but how it is communicated and the extent to which there is an opportunity for collective learning and deliberation.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherWhat Works Scotland
Number of pages30
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2018

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