Policy essentials: using evidence and data for good policy design and implementation

Crawford School of Public Policy | Executive course
Economics, Data Analysis and Decision Making
Policy Essentials


This course builds on Policy Essentials: what you need to know to design and implement good policy to help participants to identify and deal with the challenges in developing evidence-informed policy and programs. The course will include how to critique evidence when you are not an expert and have little time. There will be a particular emphasis on strategies and tactics for communicating evidence for greatest policy impact and to guide program implementation using a range of real-world examples. Participants will be involved in hands-on exercises to reinforce the learnings through practice.

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Course overview


To help you use evidence and data to become a confident participant in the policy design and implementation processes.

Course outline:

Evidence-based policy and implementation is the ‘holy grail’ for Australian public servants. But they face many challenges including the dominance of the short term and economic perspectives, the influence of ideology and the need for policy and programs to deal with immediate problems and crises.

The course will explore how to critique evidence when you are not an expert and have little time. There will be a particular emphasis on how to communicate evidence for greatest policy impact and to guide program implementation. Participants will be involved in hands-on exercises and will also be involved in a longer exercise to gain practical insights into the challenges of making evidence-informed policy that is implementable.

The Workshop will be conducted by two highly experienced former practitioners drawing on their previous experience and their ongoing research into public policy issues.

Topics to be covered:

  • Challenges in using evidence for Australian policymakers;
  • Critiquing data and evidence;
  • The strategies and tactics involved in communicating and employing data and evidence effectively for policy and program design and implementation.

Course structure:

The course is based around presentations followed by practical exercises to embed learnings. The course contains four modules:

  • The challenges in using evidence and data in policy
  • Using evidence: Timing and Tactics
  • Essential skills - Critiquing and Communicating effectively
  • “A picture is worth a thousand words” - using data visualisation

The workshop is based on a high level of interaction with participants and the use of exercises involving different groups of participants to increase participation and small group interactions.

Academic research and other expertise is employed to offer insights and a range of social policy case studies are drawn on as practical illustrations. Participants actively work through examples so that they can draw out the lessons themselves. Participants are also provided with useful resources for further study including key academic works, grey literature and on-line sites.

Learning outcomes:

  • Expanded capability to use and critique evidence for policy design and implementation.

Who should attend?

This course is designed for public servants in the APS4-EL1 range who have limited policy experience or who are aspiring to work in policy. It is suitable for graduates who have recently joined the public service. It is also good for people who want a more strategic approach to implementation and to link policy and implementation more closely.

While the course is at the introductory level, it is also suitable for participants in higher APS classifications who are looking for a ‘refresh’ or have principally worked in implementing programs.

Participants from the ‘third sector’, such as non government and private sector organisations, who are looking to expand their understanding of government and policy processes also regularly attend and have found this course very useful.

No prior experience required. It is preferable that participants have some background and/or experience in government.

Course presenter(s)

Dr Trish Mercer

Trish Mercer is an experienced public policy professional who worked for over 20 years as a senior executive in Commonwealth central agency and line departments. This included senior policy roles in education and employment and in leading research, analysis and evaluation areas, as well as 6 years in service delivery in Queensland. Currently Trish is an ANZSOG Visiting Fellow at ANU, where her research projects include public policy initiatives in the education, early childhood and employment areas, and she has been engaged since 2011 in public policy teaching through the Crawford School Executive Education program. Her case study on early childhood reform (Universal preschool: the rocky path to policy change) can be accessed through the ANZSOG Case Library.

Trish has edited a book (Learning policy, doing policy: Interactions between public policy theory, practice and teaching), which has just been published through ANU and ANZSOG on how public policy theory can be translated into practical insights for Australian public servants. Trish has a doctorate from ANU and a BA (Hons) from James Cook University, both in history, and a Diploma in American Studies from Smith College in Massachusetts, USA.

Dr Wendy Jarvie

Dr Wendy Jarvie has enjoyed a diverse career, alternating as a government policy practitioner and a researcher. She spent 22 years working in the Australian Public Service, including seven years as a Deputy Secretary in the Departments of Education, Science and Training and Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. She also managed evaluations and strategy development at the World Bank in Washington between 1998 and 2001.

Wendy has been providing Executive Education classes at ANU since 2012. She is currently an Adjunct Professor at the Public Service Research Group at the UNSW in Canberra, where she is undertaking research on the importance of public servant agency in developing good policy and the role of evidence, innovation and learning. She also works for the World Bank in the Pacific on vocational education and training.

Wendy is a member of the Indigenous Evaluation Committee for the National Indigenous Australians Agency (since 2018). Previously she was a member of the Department of Foreign Affairs’ Audit and Risk Committee (2016-20) and its Independent Evaluation Committee for Australian Aid (2012-2020). She has three degrees from the University of Newcastle (BA (hons) in History, Diploma of Computer Science, and Master of Engineering Science), as well as a PhD in Geography from Flinders University.

Updated:  25 October 2021/Responsible Officer:  Crawford Engagement/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team