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Evidence Gap Maps as a Tool to Support Evidence-Informed Decision Making at USAID

Dec 02, 2022
Dr. Ticora V. Jones

Integrating the use of evidence into organizational operations can be complicated, but a review of the literature suggests that important first steps are gathering evidence based on policy priorities and goals, and using it to inform planning, budgeting, and reporting processes. 

Another way to embed the use of evidence into existing organizational structures and processes is to integrate decision makers into the evidence-gathering process as well as to communicate about and provide access to evidence. Customized, accessible products and tools that support evidence-based decision making can help provide decision makers with the necessary skills and motivation to use evidence by demonstrating its utility in making their work more effective and efficient.

As part of the USAID Chief Scientist seminar series, we invited Dr. Paul Perrin, Director of Evidence and Learning for Notre Dame’s Pulte Institute for Global Development and lead investigator in creating the Research for Development Evidence Gap Map (EGM), to share his experience and insights on the strategic need for evidence synthesis in global development. During the July 28th seminar on “Closing Evidence Gaps to Inform Programming Decisions,” Dr. Perrin shared key findings stemming from the EGM. 

EGMs are one example of tools available to support evidence-informed decisions. EGMs enable policy makers and practitioners to explore existing evidence to facilitate informed judgment for decision making in international development policy and practice. They consolidate what is known about a body of literature, and help point out knowledge gaps and identify strategic priorities with respect to research.  

We also learned that USAID uses evidence mapping to inform programming across a number of bureaus and teams. As an Agency, it’s important to note the widespread need for data to advance programming decisions. During the seminar, Agency staff shared ongoing efforts to use EGMs in their programming. Examples include:

  •  Private Sector Engagement EGM- The Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance (BHA) is  working to extend private sector engagement EGM into the humanitarian assistance context. By identifying evidence from the humanitarian assistance space, BHA hopes to highlight opportunities for private sector and humanitarian stakeholders to expand how they work together before, during, and after disasters. 
  • Rule of Law EGM- The Center for Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance (DRG) produced a set of six EGMs that provide a picture of the evidence base in the DRG and Rule of Law sectors. The EGMs provide a systematic way of sharing knowledge with the global DRG cadre, implementing partners, and academics. The DRG Center plans to leverage the gaps that are present to identify areas to commit further research resources, which will form a part of the upcoming DRG Learning Agenda.
  •  Resilience and Food Security EGM- Over the past year, the Bureau for Resilience and Food Security (RFS) developed EGMs for their four main portfolios: resilience, nutrition, water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), and agriculture-led economic growth. RFS hopes to use the outcomes from the EGMs to inform analytics agendas and learning agendas. The EGMs will also help RFS decide where to focus efforts on additional synthesis for the best approaches to inform work going forward.


Additionally, the USAID Innovation, Technology, and Research (ITR) Hub recently launched a Digital Ecosystem Evidence Map (DEEM) as a publicly available, searchable database of nearly 1,000 digital development resources from around the world as a way for staff to integrate digital best practices into better development results. It focuses on eight priority USAID sectors and 12 intervention areas that cover the range of approaches to achieving enabling environments, responsibility, and inclusion in an expanding digital world. 


For more information on how to build and use EGMs or on the Research for Development EGM and related summary briefers, please contact us at [email protected].  



About the authors
Dr. Ticora V. Jones

Ticora V. Jones, Ph.D., is the Agency Chief Scientist and Managing Director for Research in the ITR Hub of the U.S. Agency for International Development. She manages research and development programs for the Agency that builds bridges between development professionals and universities through a multidisciplinary lens on science, technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship.