What determines whether or not policymakers take into consideration recommendations that emerge from research or data analysis? Our research has identified several factors. Some are technical, for example the quality of the research and analysis or the clarity of the policy recommendations, while others are political, for example the implications of what the evidence suggests.
Evidence is political when it aims to inform political processes and decisions. Sometimes it succeeds, often it does not. What we want to explore in this blog is what needs to be in place to increase the chances of informing policy change using different forms of evidence.
In Doing Problem Driven Work, Matt Andrews points to three factors that are required for state capability reforms to take place or have a greater chance of success: Authority, Ability, and Acceptance. We think that they also apply to knowledge-to-policy processes. He defines Authority as the support needed to effect reforms and policy change or build state capability; Acceptance relates to the extent to which those who will be affected by the reform or policy change accept the need for change; and Ability refers to the time, budget, and skills required to even start any kind of intervention for policy change.
Here we refer to these three factors and revisit a case study we published for the Knowledge Sector Initiative, in which we describe how local leadership in Yogyakarta, a city in central Java, contributed to greater use of data analysis in policy decisionmaking: ‘Using Citizen Evidence to Improve Public Services: Lessons from the UPIK Program in Yogyakarta‘.
The evolution of Unit Pelayanan Informasi dan Keluhan (UPIK) in Yogyakarta
Formal citizen feedback mechanisms are important sources of data and, when analysed, are evidence that can help maintain and improve the quality of public services. Feedback (and complaints) are a window into the every day experiences citizens have with public services and important sources of information that local administrators and policymakers can use to make plans and changes.
Figure 1. The UPIK homepage
In the early 2000s, the Municipal Government of Yogyakarta began to recognise the importance of knowledge acquired through citizen feedback for planning and managing public services. Under the leadership of a new mayor, Herry Zudianto, the local administration began to make plans to develop a mechanism for citizens to share their opinions with the municipal government, as well as send comments and feedback on public services. The Unit for Information and Complaint Services – UPIK (or Unit Pelayanan Informasi dan Keluhan – UPIK) was established in 2003. The UPIK team is located within the Office for Public Relations and Information, which is in charge of informing the public and media about the municipality’s activities. Team members are also based in line agencies, where they provide information and maintain data, which are then inserted in the UPIK dashboard.
According to a survey conducted in 2014 by the University of Gadjah Mada, citizen satisfaction with UPIK remains high more than a decade after its launch.
Authority, Acceptance or Ability: What has contributed to the sustainability of UPIK?
Authority: the leadership of mayor Herry Zudianto, who was first elected in 2001, has been critical not only to the establishment of UPIK but also over the years to supporting the role and function of UPIK through budget allocations in the local development plan.
UPIK is also the outcome of behavioural change introduced under Herry’s leadership, that is a change in attitude of the local administration towards more open communication and a new relationship between citizens and civil servants in the municipal government.
Acceptance: the data and analysis from UPIK, shared in the annual UPIK Executive Summary, involves and reaches out to several line agencies. Over the years the acceptance of the usefulness of the role and function of UPIK has brought together different agencies, all of which are responsible for public services, from education to health, road maintenance, and garbage collection. Authority and leadership alone are not sufficient to guarantee support for an innovation. It requires buy-in of the individuals in line agencies who then ‘live’ with the innovation; its effectiveness and sustainability depend on these people. Andrews argues that in the absence of Acceptance, the traditional development approach of focusing almost exclusively on finding ‘champions’ at the top of the bureaucracy is often a reason that state capability strengthening initiatives fail.
In terms of Ability, the experience of UPIK shows that policy change and innovation are not only about the capability to write new regulations but, perhaps more importantly, the ability to translate regulations into activities and show commitment through budget allocations in annual development plans. UPIK has been more than a new regulation, it has been able to operate and evolve for more than 10 years and contribute to improving local services.
In the case of UPIK, all three factors have contributed to a different extent to its success. Authority and Acceptance have probably been the most critical. Ability has allowed UPIK to adapt and evolve over time.
In 1999, Indonesia entered an era of regional autonomy where local governments have the budget and authority to make policy decisions on local development. Citizens who elect local leaders expect them to make good policy decisions that contribute to improving their livelihoods. Sometimes this means that elected officials try something new. The case of UPIK in Yogyakarta is an example where authority, acceptance and ability have contributed to introducing and sustaining an innovative approach to making use of citizen feedback to improve public services.
Louise Shaxson notes that different types of evidence can and should inform policy: ‘Policy needs to be based on a broad definition of evidence that recognises knowledge from evaluation, monitoring, and surveillance activities, and knowledge from citizens and stakeholders. UPIK Yogyakarta has shown over the last 15 years that citizen feedback is a concrete source of evidence that helps improve policy decisions and responses for improving public services.