Today sees the formal launch of the new What Works Centre for Local Economic Growth.
At the heart of our work lies one central question – what can policy do to increase local economic growth? It’s a question that continues to both perplex and challenge decision makers and academics. In a period where government is faced with slow growth and tight budgets, and is also shifting powers towards local areas, it’s also a question that has assumed increased importance. At the What Works Centre for Local Economic Growth, we believe that careful research and evaluation has a crucial role to play in answering this question, and increasing the effectiveness of policy making.
Unfortunately, understanding, assessing and making use of the evidence is not easy for policymakers facing the day-to-day challenge of delivering better economic outcomes for their communities. We are here to help. We are going to start by systematically reviewing the evidence on key areas such as employment, skills, housing and transport policy to identify the most effective interventions. We will be ranking these interventions in terms of the strength of the evidence, its applicability and cost effectiveness. These reviews should provide local decision makers with crucial insights to help them drive local economic growth and we will work hard to make sure that their findings are understood and used by decision makers. To do this, we will be running roundtables and workshops across the country, creating communities of interest and setting up an interactive website and evidence database.
But our work won’t stop there. Our longer term objectives are to ensure that robust evidence is embedded in the development of policy, that these polices are effectively evaluated and that feedback is used to improve them. To achieve this we will be working with local decision makers to improve evaluation standards so that we can learn more about what policies work, where. And we will work with local partners to set up a series of demonstrator projects to show how effective evaluation can work in practice.
Getting a new Centre up and running is a big task, and it would be remiss of me to finish without thanking our funders (BIS, CLG and ESRC), our contacts in local and central government and all the staff at Arup, Centre for Cities and LSE who have helped get us this far. But our success in the future will depend on more than the backing of an excellent team. Underpinning the aim of the Centre is the principle of continuous and effective user engagement. This is not meant to be an ivory tower exercise, so please get involved. Follow us on twitter (@whatworksgrowth), sign up to our newsletter at the bottom of this page or come to one of our events. And of course, if you are interested in the work of the Centre and want to learn more please feel free to get in touch by email. I hope to hear from and meet with many of you over the months and years to come.