About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

This event took place on Tuesday 6 December. You can watch the recording below.

You can also access the Engaging with Evidence toolkit on the Nesta website.

Demands for policy advice and evidence are increasingly expected at the forefront of the UK’s national, regional and local government. More tools, resources and knowledge mobilisation activities are being geared towards supporting decision-makers to implement evidence-informed and impactful policy. Yet knowing what processes, capabilities and methodologies can be used to determine what works, when, why and how is difficult for civil servants facing mounting pressures to deliver quickly, with impact and at scale.

In partnership with the Capabilities in Academic Policy Engagement (CAPE) programme and the Chief Scientific Adviser's (CSA) Office at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), Nesta launched a new interactive toolkit on Engaging With Evidence - a practical resource to strengthen capabilities for evidence use and expert engagement. Through a combination of theory, case studies and interactive activities, the toolkit is designed to help decision-makers learn about what evidence and expertise can be mobilised towards the right purposes at the right time. It provides a practical, easy-to-use resource for governments, knowledge intermediaries and others interested in advancing capabilities for evidence use and expert engagement.

We brought together evidence experts and practitioners from across the research-policy nexus to discuss the challenges and opportunities for strengthening capabilities for evidence use and expert engagement for policy development.

Why you should watch the recording

This event is for anyone working in local, regional or national government or those interested in developing capabilities for engaging with both evidence and evidence producers, and understanding how improved evidence literacy and expert engagement can support the development of policy to ensure outcomes are effective in generating a meaningful social impact.

Please get in touch with us if you have any questions at all. You can email Gigi Tennant and Kuranda Morgan on [email protected].

The opinions expressed in this event recording are those of the speakers. For more information, view our full statement on external contributors.


Professor Alan Penn


As the Chief Scientific Adviser at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Alan provides a challenge function to the department on the use of science and engineering evidence in policy-making. A Professor in Architectural and Urban Computing at University College London (UCL), Alan’s research focuses on understanding the way that the design of the built environment affects the patterns of social and economic behaviour of organisations and communities. Before joining DLUHC, Alan was Dean of The Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment at UCL. He was Chair of the Architecture, Built Environment and Planning sub-panel and a board member of Space Syntax Ltd, a technology spin-out from UCL, and is a founder trustee of the Shakespeare North Trust, a charity which has built and opened the new Shakespearean theatre and educational centre in Prescot, outside Liverpool.

Sarah Chaytor


Sarah Chaytor is Director of Strategy & Policy for UCL Research, Innovation & Global Engagement. Sarah established UCL’s flagship academic-policy engagement initiative, UCL Public Policy; was a co-founder of UPEN, the Universities Policy Engagement Network; and is the co-lead for the £10 million Capabilities in Academic-Policy Engagement project. She works closely with the Vice-Provost (Research, Innovation and Global Engagement) on the strategic management of UCL’s research agenda and the coordination of activities across the portfolio. She has a particular focus on external stakeholder engagement and research policy, as well as developing and managing institutional strategic initiatives. Her role at UCL also includes overseeing the UCL Public Policy programme and building UCL’s capacity to engage with public policy. Prior to joining UCL, Sarah worked in policy roles with the Russell Group, the Wellcome Trust and Universities UK, as a parliamentary researcher, and for a think tank.

Dr Ine Steenmans


Dr Ine Steenmans is an Associate Professor in Futures, Analysis and Policy at the University College London (UCL). She is based at its Department for Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy. Ine’s research focuses on future policy competencies and capabilities and asks how their development can be better aligned. She has an especial interest in the competencies for integrating knowledge across sectors and time horizons. All her work takes the same needs-led, transformation-oriented and partnership-based approach. Recent projects included capability development work on the uses of systems mapping, evaluation skills, scenarios, and strategy tools – in collaboration with BEIS, Lloyds Insurance, UNDP, Policy Lab the UAE Office of Advanced Sciences and the UAE Space Agency. Before joining UCL in 2017, Ine worked as a foresight researcher in the UK Government Office for Science.

Kuranda Morgan


Kuranda is the Evidence Lead at Nesta, where she champions efforts to improve both the supply and demand of evidence for decision-making. She has designed and delivered a range of mechanisms to strengthen the relationship between evidence and practice that are co-creative, evidence-informed and aligned with user needs and operating environments. She has trained over 2000 public servants, academics and third sector staff on how to use and generate evidence for decision-making, working with a variety of partners across the UK. Prior to Nesta, she managed capacity building initiatives to build regional leadership in the generation of rigorous, policy-relevant research across East Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America as part of the Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA) at UC Berkeley. Kuranda holds an MSc in Social Policy Research from the LSE, where her research focused on unearthing what works in ‘what works’.

Professor David Halpern


David Halpern is the Chief Executive of the Behavioural Insights Team (aka ‘the Nudge Unit’) and one of the world’s foremost practitioners of behavioural public policy and empirical social science for government. Prior to that, David was the first Research Director of the Institute for Government and between 2001 and 2007 was the Chief Analyst at the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit in Tony Blair’s government. David was also appointed as the UK’s first What Works National Advisor in July 2013. Before entering government, David held tenure at Cambridge and posts at Harvard and Oxford including a Prize Research Fellowship at Nuffield. He holds both a PhD and a first class undergraduate degree from Cambridge. He has written several books and papers on areas relating to behavioural insights and well-being. In 2015, David wrote a book about BIT entitled Inside the Nudge Unit: How Small Changes Can Make a Big Difference. In 2016, Halpern was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences (FAcSS). He was awarded the 2016 Robert Boruch Award for Distinctive Contributions to Research that Informs Public Policy.

More speakers to be announced soon!