Examining the Impact of the What Works Network

Statws prosiect Ar Waith

The Wales Centre for Public Policy (WCPP) has been awarded ESRC funding to continue examining and developing the impact of the What Works Network. This work builds on previous Centre projects such as on implementation and on impact. This new project focuses on the following research questions:

  • What counts as impact and what are the various forms of impact across the Network?
  • How can What Works Centre’s (WWCs) achieve and demonstrate impact?
  • What does impact look like to the stakeholders of WWCs? e.g., policy-makers, decision-makers at the local level.
  • How do other organisations in the wider field of evidence and policy achieve and demonstrate impact?

This is not research aiming to ‘discover’ the ‘right’ definition of impact or ways of achieving it. Instead, it aims to be a learning and sharing project, with WWCs involved at every step of the way in shaping and contributing to its’ design and outputs. WCPP has been part of an informal group of WWCs that have been exchanging learning about impact over the last two years. The questions above reflect some of those discussions, as well as internal conversations within the Centre about how we can improve our own understanding and practices in achieving impact.

The project has five main aims:

  1. Review current knowledge in the UK and worldwide into how impact is understood and assessed in different contexts, including evidence intermediaries, think tanks and university research centres.
  2. Consult with WWCs to compile and share learning about current practices regarding impact across the Network. What are WWCs currently doing? What seems to be working well and why? What are the challenges that Centres are facing?
  3. Exchange and learn from other organisations in the evidence-policy field with similar aims to WWCs.
  4. Increase understanding of policy and practice stakeholders’ views on how the Network has impact, what works well and what changes might be needed.
  5. Develop training sessions based on emerging need, for instance on how to plan and organise for impact, how to reach specific audiences, and how to narrate impact.

The project will begin in April 2023 and run for 18 months. We will provide periodic updates on what we learn as the project progresses.