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Commissioning Evidence

Enrollment in this course is by invitation only

About This Unit

Because the necessary evidence to support policy decisions is not always available, this unit focuses on commissioning new evidence. The unit presents a framework for determining the specific policy questions for which new evidence should be sought, and for identifying what evidence in what form will best answer those questions.

Commissioning Evidence is taught as part of official training programs conducted by institutions collaborating with the Evidence for Policy Design program at Harvard Kennedy School. The unit is part of the Building Capacity to Use Research Evidence program, and aims to equip policy decision-makers with practical skills and frameworks for effectively applying data and evidence in their work. This is one of seven units that help policy makers and government officials become better consumers of policy-relevant evidence and more effective commissioners of new evidence.

What You Will Learn

  • Understand where commissioning evidence fits within the broader context of policy decision-making and when this step is most useful.
  • Build capacity to think critically about
    • when and why to commission evidence.
    • what types of evidence to commission.
  • Define acts of evidence-commissioning as falling along a continuum, from the small (cheap, routine, simple) to the large (expensive, uncommon, complex).
  • Identify different types of evidence and which types might be most useful in particular situations.
  • Develop the perspective that everybody is a commissioner of evidence.


  • Some familiarity with public programs and professional experience with the policy process, ideally 5 years or more professional experience.
  • Some familiarity with basic budgeting and statistics.
  • English language proficiency.

The Nature of This as a Private Course

This course is private, meaning that only learners who are invited can participate.

About Evidence for Policy Design

The Evidence for Policy Design (EPoD) program at Harvard Kennedy School unites research and practice for smart policy. EPoD works to promote the use of analytical insights, drawn from economics and backed by rigorous evidence, to inform the design and implementation of public policies and programs around the world. Through research, teaching, and capacity-building activities, EPoD equips decision makers from around the world with the knowledge and skills necessary to understand how data and evidence can be used most effectively to achieve policy goals. To learn more about EPoD, please visit us at and follow @EPoDHarvard on Twitter.

About Building Capacity to Use Research Evidence

The Data and Evidence for Smart Policy Design project led by Evidence for Policy Design (EPoD) is one of six projects funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) under the Building Capacity to Use Research Evidence (BCURE) program. The project constitutes a multi-year engagement in South Asia to build technical and institutional capacity to integrate data and research evidence into policy decision-making.

Through BCURE, EPoD investigates the individual and organizational constraints to using research evidence and data, and works with local implementing partners to systematically address these constraints in each country's context. The multi-pronged and multi-level capacity building approach includes training as a primary activity.


This material has been funded by UK aid from the UK government; however the views expressed do not necessarily reflect the UK government’s official policies.

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    Private enrollment, self-paced
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