Corporate report

ESRC investment in What Works Centres

Economics Social Research Council (ESRC) commissioned evaluation by Frontiers Economics of ESRC’s investment of the What Works Centres (WWCs).



ESRC investment in What Works Centres (PDF)

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Completed in 2021, ESRC commissioned Frontier Economics to evaluate its What Works investments.

The report highlights that successful centres:

  • set an ambitious question
  • appoint the right kind of leader
  • ensure a suitable range of voices in the governance
  • ensure academic involvement that provides good knowledge of the evidence base, good connections, the ability to translate evidence in a way that supports policy makers and are well positioned to communicate and promote evidence.

The report also highlighted:

  • the importance of ESRC investment in catalysing funding from co-funders who might not otherwise have invested
  • the need to manage tensions between academic rigour and policy need
  • the challenges presented by policy implementation. Several WWCs acknowledged the difficulties in turning evidence into action or impact in their respective policy areas
  • the importance of setting a clear baseline and providing a shared articulation by funders of success criteria to enable effective evaluation and learning.

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