Frequently Asked Questions

22nd January, 2014

As we have been out and about talking about our work we have been answering these questions a lot, and we thought it would be best to put them in an easy to find place on the website.

We’ll continue to add to this list as other questions arise, but our current top ten (well, 11) are below:

1) What does the What Works Centre do?

We have three main tasks:

  • To systematically review the evidence base on policies for local economic growth.
  • To work with policymakers – mainly local authorities and LEPs, but also central government and businesses – to help them understand and make better use of evidence in designing and delivering policy.
  • To improve the quality of the UK evidence base by helping to develop ‘demonstration’ projects, or local policy experiments.

2) Who funds you?

We’re funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills and the Department for Communities and Local Government. We also work closely with the Cabinet Office, which is co-ordinating 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?

No. We are an independent organisation run by the London School of Economics, Arup andCentre for Cities. Our contract is with the ESRC.

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 will be tested with and shaped by an independent board of experts and an independent academic panel to ensure its clarity and rigour.

5) Who will be the Centre’s target stakeholders and how will the Centre engage them in its work?

Our work will be of interest to anyone involved in making policy decisions that are targeting economic growth – especially local authorities, LEPs, government, and businesses. We will present our findings at events around the UK, as well as through our website, blog and twitter account. The evaluations of the research will be presented in a clear and user-friendly way on the website to ensure findings are highly accessible. Read more about our engagement here.

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 will also make sure it’s relevant to the UK context.

7) What counts as ‘good’ evidence?

We will be focusing on quantitative evidence, and (where possible) ranking policies using cost-benefit analysis. In each review we will shortlist about 50 most relevant and methodologically robust items (using the Maryland Scientific Methods Scale to rank them in terms of robustness). More details on this can be found 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 will 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.

11) I’ve got this great programme, can I tell you about it?

Yes, we would love to hear from you. Please contact us on or 020 7803 4316 and we will put you in touch with the most relevant colleague

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