Impact Story

Informing UK international development policy

Published on 26 July 2021

The IDS-led K4D programme had an active year informing health provision, boosting understanding of water security, reacting rapidly to calls for evidence on Covid-19 – and providing evidence and learning to help optimise the UK’s international development policymaking.

K4D – the Knowledge, Evidence and Learning for Development Programme – has worked with thousands of policymakers and programme staff across government ministries, in the UK and in country offices. K4D provides evidence and learning services on development issues and processes, to enable staff to innovate and respond more effectively to rapidly changing and complex development challenges.

Due to the pandemic, K4D moved entirely online in 2020, providing flexible and responsive services to meet the changing demands of the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), the primary recipient of K4D expertise.

Swift response with Covid-19 evidence

In early 2020, K4D developed new rapid Covid-19 Evidence Summaries, filtering and condensing the proliferation of resources from around the world. By the end of 2020, K4D had produced 106 Health Evidence Summaries (daily and weekly), 27 Conflict and Governance summaries (weekly and fortnightly), and 13 Demography summaries (fortnightly). These were shared with FCDO staff and uploaded online to the K4D Covid-19 Resource Hub, K4D Covid-19 Evidence Search interface, and tweeted.

Feedback from FCDO rated the summaries ‘very good’, with 87 per cent reporting them beneficial to their work, especially on Covid-19 response and programming. The summaries also fed into weekly reports produced by the Covid-19 Chief Scientific Advisor team, were shared across government and with partners like the World Bank.

Publication of the summaries and social media sharing helped to attract much greater public engagement with K4D. Between April and June 2020, K4D’s total twitter impressions increased by 228 per cent and engagements by 112 per cent from the previous quarter.

Mental health learning journey

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the turbulence of the year, the most accessed single K4D resource in 2020 was the Mental Health Topic Guide with more than 6,500 downloads. This output emerged from the Mental Health Learning Journey.

K4D learning journeys are collaboratively designed, with spaces to enable discussion, peer and interdisciplinary learning, and reflection on implications and opportunities for everyday work. By the end of 2020, K4D had 35 learning journeys complete or in progress.

Other impacts of the Mental Health Learning Journey included FCDO Syria and FCDO Yemen exploring approaches and partners for integrating mental health into their work, following a series of closed-door consultations. FCDO and the World Health Organization collaborated on a guidance note for humanitarian advisers. FCDO Ghana was reported to be confident in proceeding with a new £38m programme, of which £11m was for mental health and disability rights.

Galvanising action on water security

In August 2020, K4D facilitated the UK government’s session at World Water Week at Home as part of the Water Security Learning Journey. The webinar event was headed by UK Government Minister Zac Goldsmith, whose speech drew on K4D’s rapid assessment evidence, which was described as robust and comprehensive.

The event’s reach has spread beyond the participants who joined it live. It has been shared through policy and practitioner newsletters and blogs, gathering more than 400 views by the end of August 2020. It sparked a new hashtag, #WaterAtCOP26, which partners are using to highlight work on water security in the run-up to the Glasgow climate negotiations in 2021.

Feedback has been positive generally on moving the learning journeys online. Participants of the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) Scenarios Learning Journey, for instance, felt the scenarios facilitated through the Mural online tool will play a key part in the process of drafting a MENA strategy.


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