IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


IOE report suggests how the What Works Centres can continue to improve

6 July 2018

The UK's What Works Centres would benefit from using other Centres' experiences to reflect on their own strategic choices, according to a report published by UCL Institute of Education (IOE) academics


The ESRC-funded research analyses the work of the Centres which are part of the What Works Network, managed by the Cabinet Office, and cover topics ranging from education to crime reduction and ageing.

The Centres act as infrastructure to assist with enabling evidence use, bringing together organisations that use research and those that produce it. This evidence is used to make better decisions to improve public services.

Written by Professor David Gough, Dr Chris Maidment and Professor Jonathan Sharples, the publication highlights the wide array of functions that the UK What Works Centres perform to improve the use of research in key areas of social policy.

This includes building a more robust and comprehensive evidence base, raising awareness and understanding regarding the need for using evidence, and influencing local and national policy to consider evidence more effectively.

The Centres differ from one another in several ways, including how they perform their key functions, the extent and manner of their work outside these key functions and their wider strategies to engage and influence their audiences.

Although there has been much success in the work of the Centres, the report identifies potential points of future development for the What Works Centres, with potential implications for the work for research intermediaries more widely.

The academics suggest the Centres could give further consideration to developing theories of change about how they plan, achieve and evaluate their impacts and how they will develop to actively support the use of their outputs. They could also reflect on what standards they apply when assessing, producing and communicating evidence; and how they engage with the wider systems they sit within.

Professor David Gough, Director of the IOE's Evidence for Policy and Practice Information and Co-ordinating Centre (EPPI-Centre), said:

"The nine What Works Centres have achieved an extraordinary amount in enabling the use of research in policy and practice. Going forward, there are many questions about how they develop their methods and, crucially, the extent that government and other funders support their growth into further areas of social policy."

This work was supported by UCL Institute of Education (Seed Funding) and the Economic and Social Research Council [grant number ES/P010059/1].

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