Association for the Anthropology of Policy
Oral Presentation Session
Evidence-based policy is a discursive paradigm that has been embraced, albeit unevenly and in contradictory ways, in social policy worlds from local public agencies to the Gates Foundation to the World Bank. Mobilizing scientific evidence to solve social problems requires models for the production and dissemination of evidence. Evidence-based program registries have been one model for embedding evidence in the decisions of communities and institutions. Peaking during the first decade of the 2000s, evidence-based program registries proliferated, competed, and were even co-opted in diverse fields and places. But many of the public and civic/philanthropic structures of social intervention funding have elided these registry politics — and their underlying logics — by deploying various alternative logics of research and rhetoric, mobilizing “evidence” in dialogue with various other change models. What happens when evidence-based policy — a model for rational social progress — encounters distinct visions of social progress in the form of models for local participation, models for efficiency, models for accountability, and models for caring? This paper examines several of the surprising encounters between evidence-based policy and other models for improving social life.