Evidence in campaigning

Emma is senior research officer at the Alliance for Useful Evidence at Nesta and the Wales Centre for Public Policy, leading research and engagement projects that champion the use of evidence in social policy and practice, with a focus on Wales.

On 10 September the Alliance for Useful Evidence are joining NCVO’s 2018 Campaigning Conference for a workshop on how to use evidence effectively in campaigning. Emma Taylor Collins from the Alliance talks about using the recently published report Evidence for Good in your campaigns.


You’ve probably seen what the Civil Society Strategy has to say about charities and campaigning (if not, it’s worth a look at Chris Walker’s recent blog for a quick overview). One of the key points raised is about engaging with policy-making, with the government planning to establish a new group to work with charities and identify principles of effective involvement in the policy-making process. For us at the Alliance for Useful Evidence, and our partners at the Wales Centre for Public Policy, a key aspect of the way that charities can engage in policy-making is by making good use of evidence. In our recently published report Evidence for Good, we spoke to seven charities from across the UK who have used evidence in different ways, from the early days of setting up, through to improving their programmes, and campaigning for change in the political arena. As we explain in Evidence for Good, we take a broad view of evidence, encompassing ‘research and evaluation studies to expert knowledge and stakeholder consultations. For us, good – and useful – evidence is robust and appropriate for the issue at hand.’

Examples of evidence at work

So what does the effective use of evidence in campaigning look like? Evidence for Good features two case studies of charities successfully using evidence in campaigning: Remember a Charity, a network aiming to encourage more people to leave charitable gifts in their wills, and Scottish Citizens Advice Bureaux (CAB), who deliver advice services at 300 locations across Scotland.

To test the effectiveness of different ways of asking people to leave money in their wills, Remember a Charity commissioned the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) to conduct several Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs) in legal call centres. They used the evidence to show that legal call centres had an important role to play in increasing legacy giving, and to convince more solicitors’ firms to back the Remember a Charity campaign. Not only this, but they used the evidence and the kudos of BIT, then based at Cabinet Office, to get ministerial support for the campaign and raise awareness of legacy giving.

Scottish CAB conducted focus groups, interviews and surveys with their clients and advisors to gauge their views on disability and carers’ benefits in Scotland. By feeding these findings into their response to the Scottish government’s Social Security Consultation, Scottish CAB successfully influenced Scottish Government to take some of their recommendations on board, such as leading an awareness campaign to increase uptake by people eligible for disability and carers’ benefits.

What Remember a Charity and Scottish CAB have in common is that they both made sure that their campaigns were backed by robust evidence that addressed the question they were trying to answer. For by Remember a Charity, an experimental approach made sense, as they were trying to test different ways of working. The use of qualitative methods by Scottish CAB gave them insight into how people experienced the welfare system. Knowing what kind of evidence is right for the issue you’re interested in, and then how to get that evidence in front of policy-makers, is a crucial part of using evidence in campaigning. For both charities, good evidence helped them make a case that others couldn’t ignore.

So what’s next for us? At the Alliance for Useful Evidence, we’re pleased to be partnering with NCVO to understand more about how charities use evidence in campaigning, whether it’s public awareness raising or political lobbying. If you’re interested in finding out more, we’ll be running a workshop on evidence in campaigning at the NCVO Campaigning Conference on 10 September in London. We hope to see lots of you there.


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