Since the Centre launched, our team have been asked a number of questions around how we work and what we do. Below are some answers and links to further information. If you have any questions, just get in touch using the contact form or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
1) What does the What Works Centre do?
We have three main tasks:
- Improving the quality of the UK evidence base by helping to develop ‘demonstration’ projects, or local policy experiments.
- Working with and convening events and workshops for local authorities, LEPs, central government and business to help them understand and make better use of evidence in designing and delivering policy.
- Systematically reviewing the evidence base on policies for local economic growth using a robust methodology.
2) Who funds you?
We’re funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government , the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Transport. We also work closely with the Cabinet Office, which is coordinating the ‘What Works Network’ of similar centres addressing different policy areas.
3) Is the What Works Centre for Local Economic Growth a government department / quango?
4) Given that the Centre is funded by the Government, how can its independence be ensured?
The three delivery partners, LSE, Arup and Centre for Cities value their status as non-partisan organisations, and maintaining the impartiality and independence of the Centre is essential to the credibility of the work we produce. Further, our work is tested with and shaped by an independent board of experts.
5) Who are Centre’s target stakeholders and how does the Centre engage them in its work?
Our work is of interest to anyone involved in making policy decisions that are targeting economic growth – especially local authorities, LEPs, government, and businesses. We present our findings at events around the UK, as well as through our website, blog and twitter account. The evaluations of the research are presented in a clear and user-friendly way on the website to ensure findings are highly accessible.
6) Do you look at other countries, or just the UK?
We draw on evidence from all OECD countries, not just the UK. This is because we want to draw on the broadest and best evidence base – but we also make sure it’s relevant to the UK context. Read about how the reviews are put together here.
7) What counts as ‘good’ evidence?
We focus on quantitative evidence, and (where possible) ranking policies using cost-benefit analysis. In each review we shortlist about 50 most relevant and methodologically robust items (using the Maryland Scientific Methods Scale to rank them in terms of robustness). You can find out more about how we score the evidence here, and more on how to use the reviews more generally here.
8) Are you going to look at ‘what works where’, or just ‘what works’? Isn’t local context really important?
Local context is always important to consider. Our evidence reviews allow local decision takers to explore what has worked best across the board, and then apply this learning to their specific needs and economic conditions.
9) But evidence isn’t really what decisions are made on, is it?
Part of the problem is that there is a huge amount of often conflicting evidence available to policy makers. Our role is to make sense of all of this and showcase what works so that local and national decision makers can decide how to apply this information to local scenarios.
10) Why do we need a What Works Centre?
There have been years of study on local economic policy but little has been done to learn from what evaluation shows us has worked in places, and why. We need a What Works Centre to help review and make sense of the plethora of evidence currently available to policy makers.