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ANU Crawford School of Public Policy

Evidence based policy: a workshop for practitioners

One-day short course


23rd June 2015


ANU Crawford School of Public Policy


Wendy Jarvie
Trish Mercer



This workshop at The Australian National University’s Crawford School of Public Policy, will introduce you to the concepts and practice of evidence based policy-making. The course will provide valuable insights and practical examples to lift your ability to use evidence.

Course overview


Experts are united in their view that using evidence is central to good policy development and implementation. Using evidence to inform policy, strategy and implementation is also a core capability of high performing public servants. However, in practice, evidence is just one of many inputs to policy and program implementation. Government political ideologies and policy ‘narratives’, as well as public opinion and personal styles of Ministers, shape the environment in which evidence is considered. Public servants have to be sensitive to these factors if they want to be effective, and seen to be effective, in using evidence.

The workshop will cover five main areas:

  1. How is policy made in Canberra?
  2. What the experts tell you: evidence is central to good policy
  3. What the experts don’t tell you: using evidence can be really difficult!
  4. What is truth?: finding and critiquing evidence
  5. Using evidence to best effect: practitioners’ tips

Using evidence also takes skill. A particular skill is being able to critique reports and research, to determine if the evidence is robust enough to be taken seriously in government decision-making.

This workshop will help develop participants’ skills in four key areas:

  1. Understanding what good policy is, and how it is developed
  2. Recognising the importance of the context or environment in shaping evidence-use in policy and program management
  3. Critiquing evidence, including consideration of the context and environment in which it was developed, the methodologies employed, and the organisation or person who produced it.
  4. Learning how to argue for a policy using evidence, and tips for extending your ability in this area.

The workshop uses case studies drawn from social policy under Labor and Liberal-National party governments, with group exercises drawing on actual public policy experiences.

Conducted by very experienced ex-SES policy practitioners, this course will provide valuable insights and practical examples to lift participants’ ability to use evidence to influence their Ministers and their Senior Executives.

Course convenor


Dr Trish Mercer

With over 20 years’ experience as an SES officer (1989-2010) in Commonwealth central and line public service departments, Trish Mercer is highly experienced in policy and program formulation. From 2003 to 2010, Trish worked in the Department of Education, Science and Training and its successor the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, undertaking senior roles in early childhood, schools and student income support and also running for three years the department’s research, analysis and evaluation area.

Trish also had hands-on service delivery experience from 1996 to 2003 as a member of the SES team responsible for establishing the Commonwealth’s joined up service delivery agency Centrelink. As Area Manager, she had direct responsibility for some 1,000 staff in offices across Central and North Queensland and gained extensive experience in delivering innovative services in rural and remote communities, including Indigenous communities.

Trish is now a Visiting Fellow in the Australian and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG) at ANU. Her research projects include early childhood, schools reforms and public policy innovation, and she is involved in running public policy workshops in Commonwealth departments.

Dr Wendy Jarvie

Dr Wendy Jarvie has enjoyed a diverse career, including as a government policy practitioner, university researcher and a development specialist. She spent 22 years working in the APS, including seven years (2001-2008) as a Deputy Secretary in the Department of Education, Science and Training and the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.

She also managed evaluations and strategy development at the World Bank in Washington between 1998 and 2001. Wendy has consulted widely for international agencies including the World Bank and the OECD on early childhood education, and for the IMF on employment services.

A Visiting Professor at the UNSW School of Business in Canberra, she is currently undertaking research in in early childhood and Indigenous policy, and the use of evidence in policy and program management. Since 2012 she has been a member of the Australian government’s Independent Evaluation Committee for Australian Aid.

Course date: 9.30am–4.30pm 23 June 2015
Venue: #132 Crawford Building, Lennox Crossing, ANU
Cost: A$1,100 GST incl; Group discounts applicable

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