The Policy > Action Network (P>AN) is hosted by the Research Use and Impact Assessment Unit (RIA) at the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and is supported by the Department of Science and Technology.

P>AN supports the policy community by sourcing information on social policy with the aim of contributing to rigour in policy making and greater participation in policy processes. This site contains a range of resources including case studies, policy briefs, research reports, events info and ‘how-to’ info on getting research into policy, and getting policy into action.

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Newsletter: From Evidence to Action

Latest publications

This policy brief introduces systematic reviews and evidence gap maps as two relatively new types of synthesised evidence in South African context. It explains why these synthesis tools are particularly valuable for the policy-making processes. It offers a brief history of their development, their main characteristics and procedures, as well as the main resources where they are found. In addition, it describes current production levels and usage of these synthesis tools in South Africa, and concludes with a call for greater attention and use of these tools to improve research evidence availability in the policy-making processes. 

To achieve the objectives of the National Development Plan (NDP) in addressing the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment, government requires data sources that provide empirical evidence which informs society on how far we have come in addressing these challenges and how far we still need to go. In 2006, the Presidency commissioned the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU) at the University of Cape Town to undertake a panel study, the National Income Dynamics Study (NIDS). South Africa has joined developed countries such as the UK and the US and developing countries such as Mexico and Indonesia in having a national panel survey. South Africa is a society that is undergoing rapid economic, political and social change, and the government identified the need for a panel study in order to better understand social change, mobility, poverty and household dynamics.This seminar explored the lives of children and youth in South Africa

Inequality among different socio-economic, racial and gender groups is a salient topic in South Africa. Specifically in education, the South African education system exhibits a skew distribution of achievement levels for an upper-middle-income developing country. It is thus critical to assess educational inequality in order to address the systemic factors which inhibit the attainment of an equitable educational system. The analysis of data from the 2011 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) provides an opportunity to examine this issue from a number of different perspectives.

TIMSS is an international study which assesses mathematics and science knowledge at the Grades 4, 8 and 9 levels. South Africa has participated in four rounds of TIMSS Grade 8 and 9 surveys over the last 20 years. The analysis of this data has allowed the Human Sciences Research Council to examine the key policy areas of gender equity, safety and security, educational pathways and the impact of inequality. In addition, the emerging issue of learner attitudes as a significant factor in understanding learner achievement has been explored. Using this data, four policy briefs and a journal article have been published which contextualise mathematics and science achievement within the broader South African landscape of inequality and poverty. In a bid to deepen the South African education agenda, it is necessary to engage key stakeholders in critical discussion in key policy areas and emerging policy debates.

Attached are policy briefs drawn from this study and presentations from the seminar will be made available shortly

What level of income is needed these days in order to get by, or better still in order to have a decent standard of living?  South Africa is moving in a positive direction towards implementing a national minimum wage, but there is concern about whether it will be sufficient to enable people to cover their costs of living. The amount required for an adequate diet is calculated by Statistics South Africa, but the costs of other aspects of life are less well established. This seminar comprises a series of short presentations with opportunity for discussions. The presentations will comprise: (1) recent findings on the incomes of those who do enjoy a socially-derived decent standard of living in South Africa, and the challenge of how to cost out such a standard of living in order to engage with debates on the adequacy of wages, social security and the social wage; (2) current work in the UK on the Minimum Income Standards (MIS) approach to costing out a decent standard of living, and how this work has been used to inform policy; (3) findings from a pilot of the MIS approach in South Africa; (4) insights from a parallel pilot of the MIS approach in Mexico. The seminar will conclude by identifying pragmatic steps towards costing out a decent standard of living, followed by discussion about the opportunities this will present for sharpening debates about thresholds of adequacy. BACKROUND DOCUMENTS AND PRESENTATIONS ARE ATTACHED.

In Happiness explained: What human flourishing Is and how we can promote It, Paul Anand argues that we should move beyond GDP to instead consider subjective wellbeing as a substantial, significant and necessary measure of national, governmental and individual success. While Jake Eliot suggests that the book does not always fully contend with the significant challenge of deploying this framework in the realm of public policy, it does sterling work of mapping the emergent territory of happiness and wellbeing and convinces of the need to move beyond narrow understandings of outcomes.

This review highlights the breadth of studies referenced in Happiness explained across economics, social psychology and philosophy which may provide sufficient ammunition for those that believe that Sen’s approach to capabilities cannot be developed into an economic index for measurement and analysis. However, this guide does suggest we are getting closer to mapping the territory of wellbeing and developing usable checklists for citizens and policymakers to look beyond narrow outcomes or what appears immediately salient about experiences and interventions.

The government spends the biggest slice of its budget on education, more than any other African country. And yet the crisis persists. In How to Fix South Africa’s Schools: Lessons From Schools That Work, Jonathan Jansen, Vice Chancellor at the University of the Free State and documentary filmmaker Molly Blank look at South African schools that work, in spite of adverse conditions – hunger, poverty, lack of resources, lack of toilets, and overcrowding in both rural and urban environments – and have drawn out the practical strategies that make them successful. Some critical strategies they found include: principal leadership; parental involvement; committed teachers; understanding the whole child; a commitment to quantity and quality; motivational activities; setting performance standards and working effectively to meet them; continuous student assessment; and outside partnerships. The book includes 19 videos that chronicle the stories of these school communities.At the link above excerpts from these documentaries can be viewed.

South African cities as effective drivers of local and national development” is the theme of the fourth edition of the State of South African Cities. It is the product of the accumulated wisdom of five years of knowledge generation and engagement by the SACN and the broader fraternity of urban development practitioners, scholars and analysts. The report’s aim is to improve our understanding of the role of cities and what is required to ensure their success. The Peoples' guide to the report is also available at the above link.


This paper provides a brief review of Mexico’s progressive movement from a sectoral to a governmentwide M&E system. It highlights the critical institutional reforms introduced, the policy decisions, and the most important operational steps that were taken, offering an account of the political context within which such changes and decisions were possible. The paper emphasizes the specific role of the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Policy (CONEVAL) as an innovative development, which furthered institutionalization of evaluation and a results focus at the federal government level through the implementation of the System for Performance Evaluation (SED). A quick review of the governmentwide system’s strengths and main challenges for the future is offered. Some lessons for other countries and conclusions follow.

Report on a conducted collaboratively by the African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP) and the Ministry of Health (MoH) to assess both the extent and context of research evidence use in the formulation of policies at the Ministry of Health in Kenya. A team of eight researchers drawn from both AFIDEP and MoH were involved in the design, data collection, analysis and write-up of the report. The study was conducted as part of the SECURE Health (Strengthening Capacity to Use Research Evidence in Health Policy) programme in Kenya, whose overall objective is to optimise access and use of research evidence in health sector decision-making, planning and programming. Decision-makers in public health policy worldwide recognise and believe that the inclusion of evidence in public policy-making is both a desirable and attainable policy goal. Conducted with the aim of strengthening the use of evidence in policy formulation at the MoH, this baseline policy analysis study examined the status of research use, capacity, barriers and facilitators of research use within the MoH in order to provide an information base against which to measure the progress and effectiveness of the SECURE Health interventions.

This publication places emphasis on (re)claiming local democratic space as a means of engaging/realising the significance of enabling inclusive democratic practices, which offer value and legitimacy to community realities. Otherwise, these spaces tend to become places of exclusion and narrowness. With the 2016 municipal elections looming in South Afirca, the theme of (re)claiming local democratic space is critical in cultivating a relationship between local citizenries and elected representatives. The papers in this publication share experiences of the manifestations of institutionalized and to a large extent passive local democratic spaces in South Africa, which have often lead to mistrust between different interest groups. Furthermore, the papers advocate for (re)claiming local democratic space through meaningful partnerships, participation, and active citizenry as well as the use of different modalities and technologies to encourage and support the voices of local communities. A recurring theme in the publication is the need for meaningful citizen-state engagement that is cultivated by the role of intermediaries in an attempt to achieve the true nature of democracy #socialinnovation