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About the What Works Network

The What Works Network was launched by the UK Government in 2013 to ensure that the best available evidence on ‘what works’ is available to the people who make decisions about public services. It brings together a network of independent What Works Centres that assess the existing evidence base in specific policy areas and offer advice on effective practice. Where evidence is weak or unavailable, these organisations help decision makers by supporting new evaluations that fill priority gaps.

In order to be part of the network, organisations need to subscribe to the network’s “IMPACT” values, which are:

Independent: Providing independent, unbiased advice to users, retaining editorial control over all research and products.

Methodologically rigorous: Using a clear and consistent process for evidence generation and synthesis; engaging with the wider academic and policy community to assure the quality of evidence products (for instance, through peer reviews), and giving primacy to findings from high-quality impact evaluations through a robust system for ranking evidence.

Practical: Playing a leading role in driving the use and generation of evidence in a specific, pre-defined policy area across the United Kingdom, committing to the principle that it is both possible and useful to compare the effectiveness of different types of intervention and practice; and making practical steps towards evaluating and improving the centre’s own impact.

Accessible: Putting the centre’s target user group at the heart of all activities. Sharing evidence with users, at no cost, in formats that are easy to understand and that enable them to make practical decisions on the basis of ‘what works’.

Capacity building: Mobilising evidence and working to ensure that it is put into practice by decision-makers, building user groups’ understanding of how and when to use and generate evidence, so that they can make better use of the centre’s evidence products and add to the international evidence base.

Transparent: Providing comprehensive, easy-to-understand information about the methods and limitations behind the centre’s output, publishing both the research generated and the evidence around the impact of the centre’s work.

There are currently 13 What Works Centres, affiliates and associates, covering areas from the beginning of life (and before), through to the end, and everything in between. A full list of organisations can be found in the table below, and the What Works Centres page provides more detailed information on each.

What Works Centre Policy area
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) Health and social care
Education Endowment Foundation Educational achievement
College of Policing What Works Centre for Crime Reduction Crime reduction
Early Intervention Foundation Early intervention
What Works Centre for Local Economic Growth (hosted by LSE & Centre for Cities) Local economic growth
Centre for Ageing Better Improved quality of life for older people
What Works Centre for Wellbeing Wellbeing
Centre for Homelessness Impact Homelessness
What Works for Children’s Social Care Children’s social care
Affiliate: Youth Endowment Fund Youth offending
Affiliate: Youth Futures Foundation Youth employment
Affiliate: Centre for Transforming Access and Student Outcomes in Higher Education Higher Education
Associate: Wales Centre for Public Policy

What Works Team, Cabinet Office

The network is coordinated by the Cabinet Office’s What Works Team, which operates across Government to embed a culture of rigorous testing and evaluation in the design of policy and the delivery of services. 

The team convenes the What Works Council, which meets quarterly and consists of the chief executives of all of the What Works Centres, and the What Works Operational Meeting. Separately, the team coordinates the Cross Government Trial Advice panel.

The network is led by the Government’s What Works National Adviser who provides advice to ministers, the Cabinet Secretary and other leaders in Government on what evidence shows to be effective in delivering policy outcomes. The National Adviser chairs the What Works Council.

The current post holder is Dr David Halpern. Dr Halpern is the Chief Executive of the Behavioural Insights Team, and previously served as an academic at the University of Cambridge, prior to serving in the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit as Deputy Director and Chief Analyst, and as the founding director of the Institute for Government.