Evidence and learning into action: The impact of K4D

Published on 30 November 2022

Annabel Fenton

Communications Coordinator

Over the past six years, the Knowledge, Evidence and Learning for Development (K4D) Programme has been providing evidence and learning support to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), other government departments and partners. Since the programme ended in September 2022, there have been several learnings about the services K4D provided, and reflections on the impact K4D has had in the international development sector. While a previous blog explores the lessons learned, here we share some of the ways K4D has bolstered evidence-informed decision-making and Organisational Learning (OL).

K4D has supported knowledge, evidence and learning in development

Through the research helpdesk, learning journeys and learning products, the K4D delivered valuable support to FCDO, other UK government departments, and partners. As Sian Rasdale, Head of Global Science at FCDO explains, this impact has been felt on an individual and organisational level, and in both times of crisis and business-as-usual:

“For individuals, [K4D was a] support mechanism to do the best job that they can. On an organisational level, fed into literally hundreds of business cases and supported the design of how millions and millions of pounds of Official Development Assistance (ODA) was spent. In times of crisis, [such as] the Covid-19 pandemic, we were able to tap into K4D to provide a whole range of evidence products.”


Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, K4D produced over 122 evidence summaries to signpost readers to the latest relevant discourse and evidence on Covid-19 that could inform and support response to the ongoing crisis. 87% of senior FCDO staff interviewed about the impact of K4D reported that evidence summaries have been beneficial to their work, especially as it relates to the Covid-19 response and programming. Specifically, FCDO advisers indicated that summaries proved to be particularly useful in the case of developing responses in low and middle-income countries. Our recently published impact stories show how the evidence summaries informed the pandemic response, and how K4D supported the Prosperity Fund for transformative Covid-19 recovery.


The scope of K4D’s impact also reached far beyond the pandemic response, with learning journeys, the research helpdesk and learning products proving to be vital and timely resources for government advisers and development actors across countries and sectors. As Louise Oakley, the K4D Programme Manager, reflects:

“The impact of K4D has been felt across FCDO, other government departments, and the wider development sector as is illustrated in our diverse range of impact stories.”


These examples of impact include K4D bolstering international recognition of flooding challenges in Nigeria by collaborating with the in-country FCDO team to develop a report on urban flood management; A learning journey on education in Fragile and Conflict-Affected Settings (FCAS) which facilitated dialogue and learning across departments; Strengthening partners’ ability to deliver improved results for inclusion in crises through a learning journey and various products; Boosting tax and gender reform in Pakistan; and Strengthening the mainstreaming of water security into climate policy. These specific examples of impact illustrate how K4D has influenced development policy and programming in tangible contexts. They show how the service has also promoted a culture of learning, collaboration and agile evidence use by development actors – both within FCDO, other UK government departments, partners, and the general public. This video summarises the key programme milestones and reflects our impact.


The way forward for evidence and learning in development

While this iteration of K4D has drawn to a close, it marks an important shift towards better use of evidence and learning in international development, for drafting policy and setting the global agenda; designing, implementing and measuring programmes; and informing crisis responses. The lessons learned from the research helpdesk and learning journeys indicate that access to rapid evidence and learning on demand has tangible benefits for development programming, but there are still various challenges in ensuring this is possible and utilised effectively. As Adil Najam, Dean of the Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, discussed in his keynote address at K4D’s final event in September 2022, we are living in an era of ‘fake news’, where the reliability of evidence is more important than ever. He also challenged development actors to critically reflect on who’s knowledge we prioritise, and how our own biases influence the way we use information and learning to make decisions.

Reliable evidence needs to be accessible and timely and learning needs to focus on how professionals can adapt to changing contexts while working together to develop tailored solutions. K4D may be over but the impact the programme has had on informing responses to crises and development challenges, and more broadly changing how FCDO, UK government departments, partners and the broader public think about development will be felt for years to come.


A big thank you to our colleagues across the K4D consortium and FCDO for making K4D a successful and enjoyable programme over the last 6 years.

To explore the wealth of evidence and learning produced by K4D, visit the programme’s website: www.k4d.ids.ac.uk

The views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IDS.

Related content