Building the Canadian evidence infrastructure for social policy
Canadian governments and their service-provider partners are tackling increasingly complex social problems. Effective solutions will depend on how well they can identify what initiatives are and are not working, and how well the most promising ones can be adapted and scaled up.
Initiatives to enable data-driven decision-making have been growing in a variety of policy areas, with increasing funding from both governments and the social sector. But this growth is still not keeping up with demand for social and community services or with the increasing complexity of social challenges. As a result, those leading policy development and implementation too often still do not know enough about what works to improve outcomes, where to find evidence on what works that makes sense for their specific needs, and how to use the evidence that does exist to move forward.
In response, we recommend investing in supports for building evidence across social policy. This includes establishing a clearinghouse of successful initiatives and organizations, providing technical supports to decision-makers, and redesigning services to be more people-centered. We also recommend ensuring collaboration across all three levels of government while encouraging local leadership of multi-jurisdictional initiatives. Systematically identifying and collating what we already know in Canada about what works in social policy, understanding more granularly what evidence means for decision-makers, choosing areas of social policy to prioritize next for evidence-building initiatives, and identifying local partners to lead the way, are useful starting points on this path.