Evidence-based policy making (EBPM) is advocated internationally for its potential to contribute to effective policy. EBPM aims to increase the use of scientific research, including research from the social and economic sciences, as a source of evidence for policy making, asking questions about the nature of the problem under scrutiny, how it has been addressed elsewhere and the cost, benefit and effectiveness of interventions. Such evidence needs to be integrated with policy makers’ expertise, experience and judgement in order to ensure its relevance and applicability in specific contexts. While EPBM is increasingly talked about in South Africa, it is not sufficiently recognised by policy makers and in some cases evidence building is not effectively linked to real policy engagement. An exception is the Department of Health where research evidence is generated and used on a systematic basis. Increasingly, in South Africa, there is evidence of political will to use EBPM to develop and evaluate effective policy. The Presidency has committed itself to using EBPM in promoting clear development outcomes and targets. The Presidency is also building its own institutional capacity through its Programme to Support Pro-Poor Policy Development (PSPPD), which has an explicit mandate to build capacity and systems around EBPM. This policy brief draws from a series of workshops and activities supported by the PSPPD.