Professor Henry Overman, the new Director of the What Works Centre for Local Economic Growth, explains more about the Centre and the aims of the Centre for the next three years.
The What Works Centre is a collaboration between the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), Centre for Cities and Arup, and is funded by the Economic & Social Research Council, The Department of Communities and Local Government and The Department of Business Innovation and Skills. I’ll be directing the new centre, and the Alliance 4 Useful Evidence have kindly offered me the chance to highlight the work of the Centre.
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. For those of you who are interested in specifics, we’ll be looking for quantitative evidence and aspiring to the upper levels of the Maryland Scale. You can read more details here.
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.
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, sign up to our newsletter 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.
[A version of this post first appeared on the WWC blog]
The views are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of the Alliance for Useful Evidence.