Global Commission on Evidence to Address Societal Challenges

The report of the Global Commission on Evidence to Address Societal Challenges has two main goals: provide the context, concepts or vocabulary that underpin work in this area; and provide recommendations about how we can and must improve the use of evidence, both in routine times and in future global crises. 

We believe we can go farther, faster together - here's how:

  • We need to formalize and strengthen domestic evidence-support systems
  • We need to enhance and leverage the global evidence architecture
  • We need to engage citizens, citizen leaders and citizen-serving NGOs in putting evidence at the centre of everyday life

We recognize that the groups involved in these three implementation priorities (national and sub-national government policymakers; multilateral organizations and producers of evidence-related global public goods; and citizens and citizen-serving non-governmental organizations, respectively) are best positioned to make the changes necessary to ensure that evidence is consistently used to address societal challenges. 

The Evidence Commission report, released in January 2022, makes the case that decision-makers responding to present-day societal challenges and tomorrow’s crises have an unprecedented opportunity to build on what has worked in using evidence before and during the pandemic. 

The report’s 24 recommendations call for decisive action by multiple stakeholders to ensure evidence is consistently used to address societal challenges. Our first recommendation signals a need for all stakeholders:

  • Wake-up call [recommendation 1] — Decision-makers, evidence intermediaries and impact-oriented evidence producers should recognize the scale and nature of the problem.

The wake-up call, along with the following sub-bullets comprise our top eight recommendations, which we summarize herein according to our three key ‘pathways to influence,’ including

  • Strengthening domestic evidence infrastructure through rapid learning and improvement
    • National (and sub-national) evidence-support systems [5]— Every national (and sub-national) government should review their existing evidence-support system (and broader evidence infrastructure), fill the gaps both internally and through partnerships, and report publicly on their progress. 
    • Dedicated evidence intermediaries [14] — Dedicated evidence intermediaries should step forward to fill gaps left by government, provide continuity if staff turn-over in government is frequent, and leverage strong connections to global networks. 
  • Enhancing and leveraging the global evidence architecture
    • Resolution by multilateral organizations [3]— The UN, the G20 and other multilateral organizations should endorse a resolution that commits these multilateral organizations and their member states to broaden their conception of evidence, and to support evidence-related global public goods and equitably distributed capacities to produce, share and use evidence. 
    • Landmark report [4] — The World Bank should dedicate an upcoming World Development Report to providing the design of the evidence architecture needed globally, regionally and nationally, including the required investments in evidence related global public goods and in equitably distributed capacities to produce, share and use evidence. 
  • Engaging citizens and citizen-serving NGOs in putting evidence at the centre of everyday life
    • Evidence in everyday life [13] — Citizens should consider making decisions about their and their families’ well-being based on best evidence; spending their money on products and services that are backed by best evidence; volunteering their time and donating money to initiatives that use evidence to make decisions about what they do and how they do it; and supporting politicians who commit to using best evidence to address societal challenges and who commit (along with others) to supporting the use of evidence in everyday life. 
    • News and social-media platforms [15] — News and social-media platforms should build relationships with dedicated evidence intermediaries who can help leverage sources of best evidence, and with evidence producers who can help communicate evidence effectively, as well as ensure their algorithms present best evidence and combat misinformation.

Our report also makes the case that national and sub-national government policymakers as well as multilateral organizations like the UN system, multilateral development banks, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the G20, and others must financially invest in evidence support:

  • Funding [24] — Governments, foundations and other funders should spend ‘smarter,’ and ideally more, on evidence support. They can commit to ensuring that 1% of funding is allocated to national (and sub-national) evidence infrastructures. 

The importance of these recommendations stems from how they provide the framing [1, 4, 13], structures and processes [5, 14, 15], accountabilities [3] or funding [24] from which so many other actions can follow. 

As background, the Evidence Commission report defines ‘evidence’ as research evidence comprising data analytics, modeling, evaluation, behavioural / implementation research, qualitative insights, evidence syntheses, technology assessment/cost-effectiveness analysis, and guidelines. The report recognizes the value of both local and global evidence. Decision-makers need both local evidence (i.e., what has been learned in their own country, state/province or city) and global evidence (i.e., what has been learned around the world, including how it varies by groups and contexts). Decision-makers may benefit from recommendations that draw on both local and global evidence.

Now is the time to systematize the aspects of using evidence that are going well and address the many shortfalls, which means creating the capacities, opportunities and motivation to use evidence to address societal challenge, and putting in place the structures and processes to sustain them. Now is also the time to balance the use of evidence with judgement, humility and empathy. For those seeking to use evidence to address societal challenges, legitimacy needs to be earned and then actively maintained. The Global Commission on Evidence to Address Societal Challenges was convened to support people in this vital work.

Read the report

Read the report in one of seven languages:
Versions available now: 
  • Online executive summary
  • Online full report
  • Online chapters and sections (or infographics)
  • Print-on-demand full report (at cost through Amazon)