Devolution provides an enormous opportunity not only to develop innovative and creative approaches to social policy, but also to share learning on if, why and how different approaches work. The UK can be seen as a ‘living laboratory’ for social policy.

However, in practice, we do not seem to be taking full advantage of this opportunity. Learning across governments remains ad hoc. There are few formal structures to support evidence exchange amongst civil servants across the UK. Systems to encourage comparable public service performance data are underdeveloped. Differences in political control and policy style between the four governments may also limit the appetite for learning.

As a result, all parts of the UK may be missing out on social innovations that could result in more effective, and cost-effective, approaches to tackling shared challenges.

This roundtable will bring together senior civil servants from Whitehall and the devolved administrations and other experts to develop thinking (on a Chatham House basis) on what can be done to increase UK-wide evidence exchange and policy learning.

Proposed areas of discussion:

  • Why has policy learning across the four nations remained ad hoc to date?
  • What are the main barriers to evidence exchange between governments?
  • What examples of good practice exist and what can be learnt from these?
  • What are the opportunities for increased evidence exchange across the UK?
  • In which particular policy areas could increased exchange deliver the greatest benefits?
  • What can be done to improve the flow of evidence and ideas between governments?
  • What mechanisms or structures could support better evidence exchange amongst civil servants in the UK?

This is an invitation-only roundtable - please contact Anna Nicholl ( if you would like to attend.

Thursday 22nd of October 2015
1:00pm - 4:00pm

Cardiff University

Speakers include

  • Jill Rutter, Programme Director, Institute for Government
  • Leighton Andrews, Minister for Public Services
  • Will Haire, former Permanent Secretary of the Department of Social Development, Northern Ireland Executive
  • Audrey McDougall, Chief Researcher and Head of Education Analytical Services Division, Scottish Government
  • Professor Stephen Martin, Public Policy Institute Wales
  • David Willis, Deputy Director, UK Governance and Devolution, Cabinet Office
  • Sir John Elvidge, former Permanent Secretary of the Scottish Government
  • Akash Paun, Fellow, Institute for Government