Research and ideas

Our research and thought leadership shows how the smarter use of evidence can improve public services and social interventions. It shines a light on promising or successful evidence use, as well as bad practice – where research and data has been twisted or ignored.

We publish thought-leadership reports, discussion papers, guides, and case studies, and monitor evidence use by government and politicians; we also organise events to encourage discussion, debate, collaboration and innovation, and to share insight on what works (and what doesn’t).

Here’s a closer look at some of the key things we’re doing to raise the level of debate and understanding around the smarter use of evidence in social policy and practice, along with some of our most impactful projects to date:

Research and publications

We publish a range of reports, from discussion papers and provocations to in-depth reviews with case studies. We commission research to take the pulse on how governments, politicians, charities, practitioners and others are using evidence to inform decision-making, and uncover the best approaches, and create practical guides to help you understand and implement the ideas that will work best for you. All are free to download and use in our publications section.

Our Using Research Evidence practice guide was Nesta’s most downloaded publication of 2016, and a great place to start for anyone looking to navigate the world of ‘research evidence’. Created by the Alliance for Useful Evidence and Nesta’s Innovation Skills Team, the guide is a helpful introduction to what research evidence is, why it matters, and how to use it to inform your decision-making.

Our Using Evidence: What Works report is an introduction to the findings of The Science of Using Science, a major project funded by the Wellcome Trust and the What Works Centre for Wellbeing, which studied how decision-makers were using research evidence (and how to enable this). We’ve used models highlighted in this project to inform our own strategy, including appointing ‘evidence champions’ to promote the use of evidence in their own organisations.

We’ve also produced a number of in-depth reviews with case studies, examples and ideas, such as a report exploring the Scottish Approach to Evidence, and a paper that looks at how to develop Better Public Services Through Experimental Government.

Convening events

From Party Conference fringe events to lunch-time policy seminars, we hold regular events to bring people together to discuss and share ideas, and to get to the heart of issues that matter.

We convene small groups in round-tables on specialist topics, such as What Works for Research Uptake and the meaning and impact of ‘Post-Truth’, as well as large conferences such as Evidence Works 2016, a global forum for government, which saw senior government officials from more than 40 countries coming together to exchange insights and ideas.

Provocations and critical engagement

Throughout our work, we also seek to challenge established ways of thinking and address tough questions that can spark debate and innovation. We don’t buy in to the view that using evidence is straightforward or should replace debate or professional judgement: it has many challenges, captured in a provocation paper by Ruth Levitt.

Published back in February 2013, What Counts as Good Evidence, a provocation paper by Sandra Nutley, Alison Powell and Huw Davies, questioned the extent to which it’s possible to reach a workable consensus on ways of identifying and labelling evidence.

More recently, we’ve published articles exploring topical issues around the use of evidence (or lack thereof) in social policy and practice. Jonathan Breckon, director of the Alliance, shared eight ideas for how we can respond to the world of Trexit (Trump and Brexit), while Professor Leighton Andrews offered four ideas to tackle fake news.