We invited Leon Feinstein, Director of Evidence at the Early Intervention Foundation, to come and talk to the Welsh civil service about the work that they are doing.
This was the first of what we hope will become a regular programme of policy seminars for civil servants.
Leon talked about the EIF, its role as a ‘What Works’ Centre, and its focus on the flow of evidence between research, policy and practice. The EIF provides advice on early intervention through:
- Assessment of the evidence on what works – to determine both the best early interventions available and their relative value for money;
- Advice to all on the best practical, evidence-based measures, and how to deliver them effectively to make the most impact for children and families;
- Advocacy for Early Intervention as a serious alternative to expensive and often ineffective late intervention
Central to this is the work that it is doing with 20 pioneering places.
Leon also gave a flavour what will be the EIF’s forthcoming guidebook which will distil the outputs from the evidence reviews that he and his team have been doing.
One thing that stood out for me in Leon’s presentation was how the ‘success’ of early intervention programmes is intimately linked to the systems and organisational culture at the local level.
This is something of a recurring theme in discussions of ‘what works’. Learning from successful interventions is as much about ‘how’ of implementation – addressing issues such as sharing of data, pooling of budgets, and fostering collaboration across organisational boundaries – as it is the ‘what’ of the successful intervention.
Of course, it is well known that implementation is key to the success of any policy (even if this isn’t always taken into consideration in the policy-making process). The striking thing about what Leon was saying is that the EIF are trying to crack both. Their hope is that the learning from the pioneering places can help others overcome the challenges of successful implementation – an exciting programme that I look forward to seeing develop.
We’ll try and get Leon back to tell us how it’s all going before too long.