Speaker :

– Suahasil Nazara, Vice Minister of Finance

– Nadiem Makarim, Minister of Education, Culture, Research and Technology

– Asim Khwaja, Director Center for International Development Sumitomo-FSAID Professor of

International Financial and Development

-Vivi Alatas, Asakreativita (Chair)



Vivi Alatas

Translating evidence into action, the delicate dance between policy and knowledge makers. We need evidence at each stage of policy making from identifying the problem, deciding the response, evaluating what works and what doesn’t. Without evidence policymakers must fall back on intuitions, must fall back on anecdotal evidence or ideology.

1.Questions to Nadiem Makarim:

Knowing the importance of collaboration between knowledge makers and policy maker. The main question is why the dancing rarely happen minister Nadim why would the existing research be difficult to be translated into policies what are the obstacles?

2.Questions to Suahasil Nazara:

What are the factors that you face now as a vice minister that contribute to the problem, what are the things that you wish,  after mission will do more or do less?

3.Questions to Asim Khwaja:

Like a lot of the research knowledge, internal paper is it a problem that the incentives do not align of the complaints is about. This mismatch of focus the policy makers more on practical applications, the research community seems to be more interested in niche issue complex and challenging for journal publication. How can we make the incentives more aligned?

1.Nadiem Makarim

I think to explain all the reasons would take a very very long time how many days do you have to describe this but in in my opinion the biggest problem is the process itself of bureaucratic decision making,  so part of the reason why the only way I am noticing now what the problems are was because we made when I started the ministry.

In the ministry we made a conscious effort to actually rectify those problems and essentially broke down silos between social sector, private sector,  academia and the ministry itself so I had to go the other way around I went 180 and I basically created islands of teams outside of the ministry to support myself and I have a technology island that supports us. I have a policy island, I have a character development island, I have a assessment island, I have all kinds of islands that work  as if they were part of the ministry but they’re actually located outside  so I had to go the extreme to finally realize what exactly were the obstacles. I think that the biggest obstacle in evidence based decision making. It’s very easy to blame academia and saying that academia is all siloed  everyone is siloed within their own world so I think governments need to play it,  they need to be a lot more accountable in my opinion for managing that process more effectively.

So usually the usual reason for this is okay academia don’t really mingle with policy makers as much and bureaucratic processes are you know they don’t have enough people who actually know the subject and they make decisions politically or in snap based decisions that are quick in nature to solve the problem in the short term. I’ve seen it myself not just in indonesia i’ve seen it happen everywhere else in the world. I just recently read the book by president Obama on a promised land and you know a lot of things there are also as as haphazard as even in indonesia and other countries. I think the breakdown of silo is primarily the responsibility of government and you cannot assume that your team is the only team within the ministry that needs to operate.

You need to have various operating bodies of expertise and not just expertise.  There is no point in having expertise only, if you do not have a team that is able to execute on those recommendations and advices. Whatever you want to call them they need to be this kind of trifecta within any government operating body and I hink that the most of the obstacles are revolved around process how many of those heads were in that meeting that make that decision did the leader of that meeting actually ask everyone’s opinion and challenge and ask for the data before making a decision.

These are things that I see a lot happen and and it’s quite frustrating to be honest coming from a background that was very very data evidence – heavy, you know it can be challenging but it’s doable it’s totally fixable yeah with just a little bit of  intensive collaboration

2.Suahasil Nazara

I think there is always an assumption that if we produce a lot of research then the results will be taken by the bureaucracy altogether and the bureaucracy will eventually just take it up as part of their deliberations. That assumption is wrong, a lot of academia can write the journals and have the sub section on conclusion and policy recommendations but the bureaucracy is not reading journals.

So we have to foster democracy. A lot of academia write not only journals but also papers and thesis and dissertation. The question how to get them into the the the bureaucracy sphere now  not only talking about the bureaucracy that has to change. The academia has also needed to change I have to talk more with the bureaucracy to be able to deliver the ideas that are acceptable to the bureaucracy. On the other hand the bureaucracy has also to change they must change and in what extent bureaucracy needs to be more knowledgeable,  bureaucracy needs to read more bureaucracy face their own political sphere. Bureaucracy face their own socio-economic and communication with the politics, with the media, with they need to understand more and then very important in that perspective is that the bureaucracy needs to ask questions I think this is where sometimes it’s lacking bureaucracy that think that they know the answers and they refrain themselves from asking questions.

Now the questions should be absorbed by the academia the academia should be able to absorb the questions that are around in the socioeconomic life including the bureaucracy and try to address that this is by assumption we always assume it’s happening but then in real life I think there has to be some policy broker, somebody between the two –  the academia who will continue to produce knowledge and the bureaucracy that continues to ask questions and try to be very very sensitive to politics to socioeconomic ideas and there has to be somebody who can translate the knowledge into bureaucracy language. This is not easy in my in my life I’ve been very very fortunate to be in several capacity of doing that but we have to be very  concerned about who can translate the knowledge into the bureaucracy language bureaucracy has its own language,  policy has its own language and academia also has its own language.

3.Asim Khwaja

What I love about this island analogy is on those islands you could also land researchers on the items because I think vice minister Suahasil said this as well which is you need safe spaces for experimentation, you need spaces of translation and often when you create these sub communities you can actually both create the rich ecosystem each community needs to grow but also the communication network.  Now how do you create that communication network and you are something about incentive so to me actually there’s a lot of good news here and I’m fairly optimistic about this so let me speak first from academia and then obviously minister nadim having come both from the private sector and the public sector and vice ministers of Suahasil have come from the academy and the public sector can add more more meat to what I’m just saying but from a research perspective. The good news is what you said you know researchers are interested in complex  kind of niche problems you know it’s beginning to change a lot if you think of the nobel prize in development economics.  You know Abhijit BanerjeeEsther Duflo, Michael Kramer (2019’ Nobel Prize winners) a lot of what they celebrated not just sort of experimental techniques but very much that top-notch research can be done by asking questions which are of immediate policy interest idea that we could be publishing in top journals but working on burning policy issues is something I think that this sort of field has begun to celebrate.

You know closer to home if you look at work like you know Rema Hanna,  Benjamin A. Olken are doing a lot of work in indonesia if you look at their work it’s very much in this thing right so I think for us academics there’s a very large island of academics to use, within ministers  language which very much is interested in finding its ideas from the world of practice not from a seminar but actually from a conversation.

You know mr Nadiem you may be dealing with on a daily basis or vice minister so you might be dealing on a regular basis,  well that question enriches our research so so when you think of even if you define our incentives as only publishing because the source of our richest questions is now recognized as coming from the world of I think minister Suahasil used how do you create that common broker because for an academic especially when you think of a young academic junior researcher and I would really encourage us to think not just of senior researchers but junior researchers and I would also argue researchers not just sitting outside at places like harvard but sitting in indonesia you need to build your own kind of research talent.

When you think of that community you need to make it super easy for them, you need to make a welcome space for them, if they have to spend months and we’ll talk about this assume later on getting access to information or getting access to data or getting access to policy makers and remember for us researchers is not just access to data anymore I would say it’s access to the problem solving table, you want to put the researcher on the table when that first question begins when you’re trying to figure out what really is the problem that’s where you want to welcome the researcher in and I think creating that access requires sort of structures procedures processing safeguards that can be built.

I would also argue it’s not just building incentives for academia it’s very important to build incentives for by collaborating with researchers by bringing in evidence they need to be rewarded and often I feel in bureaucracy people are penalized when you take risks remember anytime you do something new there’s a chance you may not succeed so you have to create a safe space for failure actually you have to give a safe space for experimentation you have to reward people on the process not necessarily just the outcome and I think that requires some thinking and i’m glad minister Nadiem to hear from you that you’ve created these islands because those islands can also be protective those islands can also create that support infrastructure because if you can’t take risks you will never innovate right that’s that’s the basis of research that’s the basis of kind of this sort of I’m not saying take very risky wishes and decisions that’s what research helps with but I am saying create a reward structure within bureaucracy that those bureaucrats who are making these connections those brokers who are making these connections are actually recognized and rewarded and I think that’s going to be very interesting too thank you

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