On Thursday 14th July the PPIW team (Steve, Dan and Lauren) attended the Seventh WISERD Annual Conference. The conference took place at Swansea University’s Bay Campus on the 13th and 14th July, and brought together practitioners, policy makers and social scientists to discuss and debate themes such as health; social care; wellbeing; education; culture & values; environment; labour markets; devolution; and civil society.
The PPIW presented two papers to the Conference, outlined below.
Our paper on place based approaches to public service delivery traced three phases: (1) area based initiatives (ABIs) in the 1980s through to the early and mid-2000s, (2) the development strategies and local area agreements in the late 2000s, and (3) Growth Deals and City Deals under the Coalition and Conservative governments of the last six years. We argued that these approaches are very different. They all seek improvements in public services but they operate at different spatial scales and are underpinned by different theories of change. We showed that research on ABIs suggests that they had some beneficial impacts at neighbourhood level but failed to transform mainstream programmes. Research on local strategic approaches tells us about processes of collaboration but not the outcomes they achieved. It is too early to evaluate Growth and City Deals. However, despite their differences, we identified some common themes across all three types of area based approach. These include (1) the importance of context and in particular levels of trust between organisations, (2) the role of local leadership, (3) the complexity of developing more joined up approaches to service delivery, and (4) the lack of robust evidence about longer term outcomes.
Our paper described the origins, role and approaches adopted by the UK’s What Works Centres. We highlighted the different approaches that centres have taken to the development of evidence standards and argued that it is important to match research methods and evidence standards to the kinds of question which are being addressed. We suggested that it is important to take account of the complex contested nature of the policy process and we argued for a systems approach which recognises that evidence is only one influence on policy and practice. We concluded that evidence standards need to be applied intelligently and that we need carefully targeted approaches to knowledge mobilisation in order to make the most of research based evidence.