Taking an interpretive approach to evidence-based policy, this article illustrates the rhetorical and situated uses of evidence in two case studies of local cultural policy. Broadly defined as policyrelevant knowledge, evidence is selectively used by council officers in the development, delivery, and evaluation of arts programmes at two Australian municipalities. This article identifies four main uses of evidence in this context: rituals of accountability, advocacy, programme design, and improving practice. A narrow definition of evidence as scientific data or research would fail to account for the broad range of knowledge that informs the practice of local cultural policy.
Responding to the need for innovation, governments have begun experimenting with ‘design thinking’ approaches to reframe policy issues and generate and test new policy solutions. This paper examines what is new about design thinking and compares this to rational and participatory approaches to policymaking, highlighting the difference between their logics, foundations and the basis on which they ‘speak truth to power’. It then examines the impact of design thinking on policymaking in practice, using the example of public sector innovation (PSI) labs. The paper concludes that design thinking, when it comes in contact with power and politics, faces significant challenges, but that there are opportunities for design thinking and policymaking to work better together.