• Blog
  • 3 July 2018

Exploring concepts and practices to increase data use: A short learning paper

We have explored conceptual and practical approaches to data use through desk research and contextualised them using DI’s data use framework.

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Written by Ralitza Naydenova

Work to promote the uptake of data in decision-making and accountability reveals important nuances in the concepts of data, information and evidence. While these are inherently linked, different users require different types of input. This is critical to designing user-centred interventions and data or information products. At the same time, these finer distinctions can make the umbrella concept of ‘data use’ seem tricky to meaningfully navigate. For this reason, we have explored conceptual and practical approaches to data use through desk research and contextualised them using DI’s data use framework.

Our report Data use: An overview of conceptual and practical approaches now serves as an internal learning resource at DI; however this blog is to share it more widely in the hope that others may benefit from our findings and to prompt discussion with others who are thinking about similar questions.

Key questions that guided our research include: • What is the difference between ‘data’, ‘information’ and ‘knowledge’? • To what extent does evidence inform policy? • How applicable are the data supply and demand models? • What role do intermediaries play in enabling data and information use? • What are the key elements in data use interventions?

In the paper we look at both the theoretical underpinnings of data and evidence use, as well as a number of practical approaches others are advancing. Some of these include the Building Capacity to Use Research Evidence programme, Global Integrity’s Treasure Hunts approach, Open Contracting’s resources on data use and presentations by others during the recent Data for Development Festival in March. It was a real pleasure to look at all these great initiatives in a bit more detail, and we’ve learned a lot from it to support our own thinking and practice. As we continue to develop this further, we look very much forward to discussing and exchanging with our friends and partners.

We welcome your comments and suggestions as we update and expand on this initial overview. You can get in touch with our Data Use Lead, Conrad Zellmann, at conrad.zellmann@devinit.org. The paper and this blog were produced by Ralitza Naydenova from the University of Bath undertaking her one-year placement at DI as part of her BSc Politics with Economics.